God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30 - Psalms 102-104: O My Soul, Bless God!

Today’s Reading: Psalms 102-104

The Message

English Standard Version

Congratulations! You have now made it through 4 months of reading through the Bible in a year! That's 1/3 of the way! Keep it up!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God sustains life; without God nothing can survive!

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 102

A cry for God, "Don't forget me! Help! I am almost gone because of my troubles. But you are compassionate and will help. You will bless your child."

Psalm 103

David praises God from the bottom of his soul. God sets everything right. He forgives His Chosen People. He keeps his delicate children alive. His throne is over all of us forever! Bless God!

Psalm 104

The author glorifies God for how wonderful He is. He has blessed His Chosen People bountifully with animals, grain, and water. God controls nature and keeps it away from His people until they are safe in their beds at night. What a wonderful world—all of it shows His works! Bless God!

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Even when we are in great pain, God is still sovereign.

We must remember that pain does not weaken God's reign over the earth. Pain came because of Eve and Adam's sin not because God was negligent to stop it. In times of great pain, God continues to be sovereign over the earth.

God makes everything come out right.

We have to cautiously discuss this issue. Often this idea gets confused with "God makes everything come out the way we want it to." That is why David continues to proclaim that God's way is higher than our way. God makes everything come out right in the end—even when we may think it isn't in the short run.

God has taken our sins as far away as possible.

I love that simile, "as far as the east is from the west, / so far does he remove our transgressions from us" (103:12, English Standard Version). There is no place where "going east" becomes "going west." Travelling north becomes travelling south when you cross the North/South poles. But travel east and you will never stop. That's where God took our sins. God sets things right within us by taking our sin and guilt far, far away!

God feels for us as a parent feels for his/her child.

I'm a new father. My son and I are bonding. God loves me as I love my son. How cool is that. This is why He wants to set all things right for us. God sets all things right in the earth for His Children—us!

God reigns over the entire world!

Humans may be the caretakers of the earth, but God is the one who reigns over it all! Psalm 104 gives a great exposition of this great truth. Praise God for caring enough to care for his creation!

O my soul, bless God!

Monday, April 29, 2013

April 29 - 1 Chronicles 7-10: Genealogies of the Jews, Part 4 of 4 - Saul's Punishment

Today’s Reading: 1 Chronicles 7-10

The Message

English Standard Version

1 Chronicles 7-9 presents the last of the genealogies. There is little to no narrative. 1 Chronicles 10 retells the story of Saul's death and the aftermath. Since it includes only a little new information I won't bother putting together a summary or thought to guide your reading. To read my thoughts on Saul's death, return to April 19. If you are behind, read chapter 10 to refresh your memory. If not, use this day to reflect on what else you have read. This blog post will be short.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The genealogy of Israel is very important—they must trace their lineage back to Abraham to be consider a Chosen Person.

(Repeat of Tuesday's thought)
This reason is why this section is in our scripture. It would have been important for the people of the day to have their tie back to God's Promise to Abraham. Since we are the spiritual ancestors of Abraham, this section is not as important to us.

Saul was punished for disobeying God.

Saul's reign began well but went downhill. Saul lost God's Spirit when he failed to destroy everything in a battle. Eventually his pride prevented him from praying to God and he died in battle. Learn from Saul: God will punish His Chosen Leaders when they turn against him.

Enjoy your day. (I'm on vacation!)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28 - Psalms 81, 88, 92 and 93: Sing Out to God, Even in Times of Woe

Today’s Reading: Psalms 81, 88, 92 and 93

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Today is another whirlwind of emotions, from great praise to a caution against going alone, from a feeling of abandonment to a song of praise for redemption, and ending with trust through hard times.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 81

Asaph calls the people to observe a day dedicated to God. God has helped them through terrible times, but they would not listen to Him. So God allowed them to go their own way. If they return He will save them.

Psalm 88

Heman prays before God to save him. There is no one that can save him and he wonders if God will help. The only thing on his side is darkness.

Psalm 92

How wonderful is our God! He has made things right when our enemies came out to defeat us. God made us strong because we were good. God is our mountain of safety!

Psalm 93

God is a mighty king, stronger than any storm on the sea. Beauty and holiness are where God reigns forever.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

If we do not listen to God, He will turn us loose.

This is a sad statement from God,
But my people didn’t listen,
   Israel paid no attention;
So I let go of the reins and told them, "Run!
   Do it your own way!" (81:11-12, The Message)
God will allow us to ru(i)n our own lives if we do not listen to Him.

If we obey God, He will defeat our enemies for us.

In the same psalm God calls His Chosen People back,
Oh, dear people, will you listen to me now?
   Israel, will you follow my map?
I’ll make short work of your enemies,
   give your foes the back of my hand. (81:13-14; The Message)
Follow God's way of life and He will defeat your enemies for you!

Heman's prayer is similar to Job's cries.

Heman does not understand why God has abandoned him. He cries out but is afraid that his cries will become empty sound in an empty sky. However, he will spend the entire night praying to God if needs be. He will call out to God until he can no longer speak. As for now, though, darkness is his only comfort. Cry out to God in expectation of salvation—even when you are not sure He will hear!

It is a beautiful thing to praise God!

I don't want to skip over this section. We can become so wrapped up in good vs. evil that we forget to praise God for what He has done! Sing praises to God! Announce your love for God every day with music and song!

God's land is beauty and holy.

God is greater than any storm. God is greater than any sea. God's land is beauty and holy forevermore. Praise God for being stronger than anything that could defeat us!

Is darkness your only friend? Cry out to God!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April 27 - 1 Chronicles 6: Genealogies of the Jews, Part 3 of 4 - the Levites

Today’s Reading: 1 Chronicles 6

The Message

English Standard Version

1 Chronicles 6 gives the genealogy of the Levites. There is little to no narrative today, so I won't bother putting together a summary or thought to guide your reading. If you are behind, today is a day to skip (don't even bother scanning). If not, use this day to reflect on what else you have read. This blog post will be short.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The genealogy of Israel is very important—they must trace their lineage back to Abraham to be consider a Chosen Person.

(Repeat of Tuesday's thought)
This reason is why this section is in our scripture. It would have been important for the people of the day to have their tie back to God's Promise to Abraham. Since we are the spiritual ancestors of Abraham, this section is not as important to us.

The high priests would need to trace their lineage back to Aaron.

Just as Israel would need to trace their lineage back to Abraham to stake a claim to the Promise, the high priests would need to trace their lineage back to Aaron to be part of his promise.

Enjoy your day. (I'm on vacation!)

Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26 - Psalms 73, 77, and 78: Psalms of Asaph

Today’s Reading: Psalms 73, 77, and 78

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Today is Asaph's turn to present to God his problems and to his people what God has done for him.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 73

Asaph praises God for His Goodness. Asaph almost missed this goodness, instead focusing on how the wicked are blessed. Fortunately, God brought Asaph back from this ignorance and reminded him that God is all Asaph wants!

Psalm 77

Asaph yells at God to save him! He wonders if maybe God has left for good. Just in case, he will continue to do what God has asked because God's way is holy. He leads Israel like a shepherd.

Psalm 78

Asaph tells his people all about God's work with Jacob and Israel. God performed marvelous things right in front of Israel but they yawned and kept on sinning. So God punished them. God gave them food, water, and meat and they obeyed for a little while but returned to sin. God never destroyed them! Finally, God chose David to lead His Chosen People who guided the people well.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

We can miss God's greatness if we only look at how the wicked are prospering.

This is an interesting psalm. I love how it begins,
No doubt about it! God is good—
   good to good people, good to the good-hearted.
But I nearly missed it,
   missed seeing his goodness.
I was looking the other way,
   looking up to the people
At the top,
   envying the wicked who have it made,
Who have nothing to worry about,
   not a care in the whole wide world. (73:1-5, The Message)
We can miss God's greatness if we focus on the injustice of the wicked prospering.

God is longsuffering—He will not destroy His Chosen People quickly.

Reading through Psalm 78 is like reading a suspenseful novel twice. You keep telling the characters, "Can't you see what's going on?" but they cannot. Israel continues to sin against God. Even when God takes them from their slavery and wipes out their slaveholders, they continue to sin. God gives them bread, meat, and water in a wilderness. They continue to complain and are punished.
And God? Compassionate!
   Forgave the sin! Didn’t destroy!
Over and over he reined in his anger,
   restrained his considerable wrath.
He knew what they were made of;
   he knew there wasn’t much to them. (78:38-40, The Message)
God is longsuffering because he knows what we are made of. I'm not sure that comforts or not.

Are you missing God's Goodness because you are fixated on the riches of the wicked?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 25 - 1 Chronicles 3-5: Genealogies of the Jews, Part 2 of 4 - The Prayer of Jabez and the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh

Today’s Reading: 1 Chronicles 3-5

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading has a few places of narrative. Read 4:9-10 and 5:1-2, 17-26 and scan/skip the rest. I will summarize only the narrative parts.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Those who trusted God were helped; those who disobeyed God were punished.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Jabez (meaning "Oh, the pain!"), a righteous man, prayed that God would help him. So God did.
Reuben was the firstborn son of Jacob; however, he was demoted when he slept with his father's wife. Joseph's family received a double portion instead—two tribes named after his sons Manasseh and Ephraim. Judah became the strongest of the tribes.
The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh trusted God to help them defeat their enemies and God helped them. Later, though, they worshiped other gods and he allowed Assyria to take them into captivity.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God sets things right for Jabez because he asked.

Many of you know the popular book series, The Prayer of Jabez. It has sold over 10 million copies and probably has been equally criticized.I read the book in high school but remember little. Lost in both sides of the Prayer of Jabez argument is what God wants us to understand from this short, brief tale—ask God for what you want.
Jabez was considered more righteous than his brothers. The only other thing we know about Jabez is that he asked God for blessings, land, and personal protection from evil. And God gave him what he asked. Was Jabez more righteous because he asked God for what he wanted or did God give Jabez what he wanted because he was righteous? The answer is most likely both. What we must see is that God wants His Chosen People to ask him for what they want/need. And just as a parent would bless a child, God will bless His Chosen People. Submit to God what you want/need to set things right on the earth for yourself, your family, and your community. He will give you what you ask.
To present arguments of, "Well, what if I asked God for $1,000,000?" is to miss the previous verse—Jabez was more righteous than his brothers. If you want/need $1,000,000 to set things right on the earth, God will answer. If you want/need $1,000,000 to set things right on the earth and don't ask God to help you are being selfish by trying to do all of it on your own. Our attitude and approach to prayer is more important than our words. Often we conflate amounts with selfishness. The more you want/need, the more selfish you are. What we should couple together is trust and amount. The more you need, the more you should trust God's plan. If God does not give what you thought you needed, submit to God's ultimate plan.

God gave land to the tribes of Ruben, Gad, and Manasseh because they asked Him to help them. He took the land away when they worshiped other gods.

In a similar vein to the story of Jabez these three tribes were given land when they trusted God. Yet later when they went after other gods, God gave them to the Assyrians who removed them from the land. God blesses those who trust Him. God punishes those who do not trust Him.

What are your thoughts on asking God for physical blessings?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 24 - Psalms 43-45, 49, 84, 85, and 87: Psalms from the Sons of Korah

Today’s Reading: Psalms 43-45, 49, 84, 85, and 87

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The Sons of Korah experience similar emotions as David and express them in psalms.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 43

The author wants God to help through being ridiculed and lied about. God would help, so why be down in the dumps?

Psalm 44

The sons of Korah cry out to God to help them through their battles. God helped their ancestors in Canaan and they are now calling on God to help them. They feel abandoned by God and want Him to return.

Psalm 45

The sons of Korah sing a song for a wedding. The groom is a top-notch specimen of a man. The woman is beautiful. She is greatly loved and will now become the most famous wife and mother in the land.

Psalm 49

The sons of Korah teach everyone about the importance of honoring God. No one can get where they are going by themselves. No one is immortal. So don’t think you are the end-all-be-all. No one is that great.

Psalm 84

The sons of Korah sing how wonderful God's house is. Animals of all kinds find homes there and raise their young to sing God's praises. They would rather camp outside God's house than spend a luxurious life in a place of sin. God's wonderful nature is that wonderful!

Psalm 85

Korah sings how great God is when He forgives His Chosen People. They ask God to release them from their punishment and renew their place in God's kingdom. They praise God because His creation is wonderful.

Psalm 87

God loves Zion. They are famous throughout the world. Israel is now reborn a great nation—full of children who are all God's children.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Even when we are persecuted, fixing our eyes on God relieves our soul.

Reading Psalm 43 helps us see the progression from anger to a call for redemption and ends in praise for the God who sets things right. Hold on to God when you are around ungodly people—He will lift your soul.

Don't trust your weapons. Trust God.

The Sons of Korah know that God gave their ancestors military victories. That is why they tell God,
With your help we’ll wipe out our enemies,
   in your name we’ll stomp them to dust.
I don’t trust in weapons;
   my sword won’t save me—
But it’s you, you who saved us from the enemy;
   you made those who hate us lose face. (44:5-7, The Message)
Don't trust your power to defeat your enemies. Trust in God's power to save you from your enemies.
Trusting in God to save us instead of our own strength is difficult when we become the most powerful nation in the world. However, we must keep this trust or God will leave us and we will be defeated by lesser powers.

Not all psalms end in hope.

Psalm 44 does not end with the assurance that God is coming. It ends with a cry of Help us! We need to see that not all thoughts, songs, or worship settings should end with a happy ending. God is comfortable with us complaining to Him, even if that complaining ends without acknowledging God's imminent arrival.

There is no such thing as self-rescue.

This discussion often becomes automatically politicized in the US between the "pull yourself up by your own bootstrap" conservatives and the "you didn't build that" liberals. In the end neither is correct because they leave out the most important part: God. There is no such thing as "pulling yourself up by your own bootstrap" when it comes to setting things right. The cost is too great. At the same time, no government or organization can set things right by themselves. The organization requires everyone on the same page. Both require God to set things right. We age and die. Governments age and die. We can only have things set right in our lives when we allow God—who is ageless—to set them right and then join Him.

It is better to sleep on God's doorstep than live as a guest in sin's house.

A marvelous use of imagery, Korah (or the sons of Korah) presents a great truth about the differences between being wholly for God and being honored by evil. In that age poor people would sleep at the door of rich people so they could have the food that was thrown out every day. So Korah is telling everyone that it is better to eat from the scraps of God's table and sleep outside than to be an honored guest at the house of evil. Even God's scraps are better than sin's banquet food.

When we are forgiven by God, all is well.

Forgiveness from God is greater than any other thing in the world. This is why Korah writes,
I can’t wait to hear what he’ll say.
   God’s about to pronounce his people well,
The holy people he loves so much,
   so they’ll never again live like fools.
See how close his salvation is to those who fear him?
   Our country is home base for Glory! (85:8-9, The Message)
When God announces us reconciled, all of life works again!

All of God's people are His personal children.

God's nation is famous throughout the land because God's people are not the vassals of their god. They are God's Chosen People. They are God's personal children and he writes their name in His book of genealogies. All of God's children are loved personally, not as a cog in a machine.

Which of these psalms touches your life where you are right now?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 23 - 1 Chronicles 1-2: Genealogies of the Jews, Part 1 of 4

Today’s Reading: 1 Chronicles 1-2

The Message

English Standard Version

The books of the Chronicles are retellings of the books of Samuel and Kings. The audience for these is most likely post-exile (we will get to that in a few weeks). Even though these books were written much later than Samuel and Kings they deal with similar events, so we will read them now. We will now have days with narratives from two books instead going through one book at a time. We will jump around between 2 Samuel (then both books of Kings) and 1-2 Chronicles. If you find this confusing, using the link at the top of each post to read that day's section.

The first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles give the genealogy of the Israelites. There is little to no narrative today, so I won't bother putting together a summary or thought to guide your reading. If you are behind, today is a day to skip (don't even bother scanning). If not, use this day to reflect on what else you have read. Today's blog post will be short.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The genealogy of Israel is very important—they must trace their lineage back to Abraham to be consider a Chosen Person.

This reason is why this section is in our scripture. It would have been important for the people of the day to have their tie back to God's Promise to Abraham. Since we are the spiritual ancestors of Abraham, this section is not as important to us.

What do you think of the inclusion of so many women?

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 22 - Psalms 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, and 21: David, in a Civil War, Praises God

Today’s Reading: Psalms 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, and 21

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David is spending this time of civil war sharing his pain and pleasure with God.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 6

David asks God to stop all of the fighting because he is tired and has cried a river of tears. He exclaims to his enemies to watch out—God has answered his prayers.

Psalm 8

God is wonderful! Everything shouts praises to Him. It makes David see his smallness and wonder why God even cares for him or would put humans in control of the earth. Creation calls out to God!

Psalm 9

David bellows God's praises for helping him defeat his enemies. God sets things right. David calls on God to be kind to him and to defeat his enemies through their own snares, their own holes, and their own wickedness.

Psalm 10

Where is God? Why has He not set things right when His enemies come and mock Him? The ones who obey God feel abandoned. In spite of that they know God will save them because God sets things right. He will end the reign of terror.

Psalm 14

God wants to find His Chosen People, the wholly-for-God folk. But they cannot be found. They have gone after fake shepherds who have taken them into the slaughterhouse. God can still save them!

Psalm 16

David asks God to keep him safe. He has not gone to the god-market looking for a god for the right price. David has chosen God and God alone! God has proven loyal and true and David will always walk His path.

Psalm 19

Everything in the world praises God, even if there are no words! The sun is like God's Word—giving light to the world and warming the hearts. God's Word is better than any precious thing in the world. God's Word prevents us from falling into troubles, from taking control over our lives and bringing them into the pit. May everything I do be from the Word of God!

Psalm 21

God gives strength to kings. They have good, long lives because of God. God in return arrays them in splendor, making them beautiful in the world. He saves them from their enemies and causes the evil ones to be wiped clean off the face of the earth. No one can have strength outside God!

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

David cries out to God when he feels tired of fighting.

David wants God to stop the fighting. He feels abandoned by God. However, when he cries out to God he expects salvation—God will set things right. When you are tired of fighting, call on God to set things right.

God's creation cries out that He has made it!

Everything in the world tells of God's majesty. The skies, the oceans, outer space all report His greatness. They may not speak English but by their very existence they show how silly and inane atheist's discussions of God become. The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies show His work!

God has made man the keepers of his earth.

We must make sure we remember this aspect of God's plan. God, from the beginning, has given man dominion over the earth. We are in charge of making sure the earth is replenished. Consider this TED talk from Allan Savory where he confesses a grand mistake they made 50 years ago by taking grazing animals from large areas of Africa's grasslands to set up national parks: They are now re-grazing the land as God would (although he calls it "nature") and seeing untold results. We are God's caretakers of the earth.

The wicked will be caught in the traps they set up for God's people.

In a hopeful though sobering psalm, David calls on God to save him by having people who set traps for him fall into their own traps. The schemers are punished by their own schemes. The ones who dig holes fall into them. God will punish evil doers in the same way they seek to punish God's people. Don't be one of the schemers, trappers, or hole-diggers!

God will set things right if the righteous will obey Him.

Psalm 14 provides a hard take on God's predicament—He wants to set things right if only He could find people willing to be wholly for Him. Unfortunately, they have gone after false gods, false shepherds. They will be punished unless they turn their lives around. God can set things right in our lives if we wholly give ourselves to Him!

Don't go shopping for a god.

In our consumer-driven society, we shop for everything. I like that. We need more parts of our society to embrace the idea that they should compete instead of having a "right" to our business. However, one thing that does not need competition is our god. God is our god and He alone is worthy of being our god.
Don’t just go shopping for a god.
   Gods are not for sale.
I swear I’ll never treat god-names
   like brand-names. (16:4, The Message)

God is more precious than anything on earth.

God is more precious than silver. God is more precious than gold. God is more precious than diamonds. God is sweeter than honey. How wonderful is our God!

God's Word keeps us out of danger—chew on it!

There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger
   and directs us to hidden treasure.
Otherwise how will we find our way?
   Or know when we play the fool?
Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
   Keep me from stupid sins,
   from thinking I can take over your work (19:11-12, The Message)

Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart be acceptable in God's sight!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 21 - 2 Samuel 1-4: A Deadly Power Struggle for Reign over Israel

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 1-4

The Message

English Standard Version

Today we begin 2 Samuel. It tells the life of David. We will continue to have days of narrative and psalms and days with one or the other.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Saul's family will not go quietly into the night and neither will David.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

An Amalekite ended Saul's suffering. David executed him for killing God's anointed. David lamented Saul's and Jonathan's deaths.
David moved to Hebron where he became king over Judah. Abner, Saul's general, made Saul's son Ish-Bosheth king over the rest of Israel.
Abner's soldiers fought David's soldiers. Abner killed Asahel. Asahel's brothers chased Abner into the hills.
As the civil war continued David's house grew stronger. David's six wives gave him six sons. Abner grew in power.
Abner negotiated peace with David but Asahel's brothers killed him. David sorrowed for his loss.
Two of David's men killed Ish-Bosheth but were executed.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

David killed the Amalekite messenger for killing God's anointed.

In a testament to David's greatness he executes the Amalekite for killing Saul, who had attempted suicide after being injured. Who chased David out of his own land. Who tried to kill David, twice. Who was the rejected king of Israel. But David never spoke ill of Saul, never prayed for his death, or wanted his family to be enslaved/killed. God can set things right when His Chosen People want to obey Him more than punish their enemies. David would later reiterate this great character trait when he executes his own men who killed his rival, Ish-Bosheth.

The story of Abner and the sons of Zeruiah (Joab, Abishai, and Asahel) provides a cautionary tale against harboring anger.

This story is messed up. Why Abner and Joab begin the battle is silly. Why Asahel chases Abner is strange. The fact that Joab and Abishai harbor such great anger against Abner (who isn't a righteous person, but isn't conspiring against David) is understandable but they never consult God with their plan. Anger that festers will only lead to greater and greater pain and death.

David calls Abner a prince and hero for brokering peace between Saul's family and David's family.

David is the God-chosen king of Israel. Abner placed Saul's son as king over Israel without God's approval. David's army has fought Saul's army for almost two years. Abner is not a great man. Yet when Abner decided to bring peace to the two families he is murdered in cold-blooded revenge. God can work through anyone who is willing to set things right on the earth.

How is anger and resentment preventing you from setting things right on the earth?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 20 - Psalms 121, 123-125, and 128-130: Sing of God's Protection

Today’s Reading: Psalms 121, 123-125, and 128-130

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Today's Psalms speak of God's protection—though life is not always wonderful.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 121

The author looks for his guardian and sees it is God. God protects in every way.

Psalm 123

Who will save? They are all watching and waiting for God to work.

Psalm 124

If God had not saved David and his family, they would have died. How blessed and wonderful is God!

Psalm 125

God will not allow any of his followers to be moved, like a mountain. God will punish those who resort to violence to do wrong. There will be peace!

Psalm 128

Those who fear God are blessed! They will enjoy peace and a good life.

Psalm 129

The author complains about the taunts of others. May those who hate God's Chosen People be punished soon!

Psalm 130

The author cries for help from God! Because God forgives our prayers are helpful. There is no doubt, by waiting on God He will save.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God gives strength.

Our strength does not come through isolation from our enemies or fortified cities that are on mountains. Our help comes from God who made all of the mountains! Do not put your trust in physical things. Only God gives strength!
Our strength today does not come from atom bombs, strong military presences around the world, a strong free-market economy, a top-notch education system, or the spread nature of the contiguous 48 states. Our strength comes from God!

Psalms also complain to God.

Contrast Psalm 123 with Psalm 23 (the most famous psalm). The psalms are not devoid of bad times. They include both positive messages to God—the Lord is my shepherd and he gives me all I need—and negative messages to God—we're waiting and watching for your salvation, but we've been kicked around long enough! God is willing to hear both sides of the story. Bring God your complaints when you feel you can't go on. He will listen.

If God had not protected us we would not have survived.

How wonderful is it that God has saved us even when we were unable to save ourselves! This is why David praises God for not abandoning him. God saves all who call on Him, even if they cannot save themselves.

Those who obey God enjoy good lives.

We often look at the troubles and trials that come from obeying God. David ran for his life twice. However, we must also see the peace that came during Joshua's day and the years between fighting in Judges to see the complete picture. Those who set things right with God live blessed lives.

Forgiveness is God's habit.

How magnificent is our God who has forgiven us! If God did not have a forgiving habit we would not have survived to today. We wait and watch for God to set things right on this earth because he has earned our love and respect. God's habit is forgiving. If not, we would not stand a chance!

Does your life reflect a God who is setting all things right through forgiveness?

Friday, April 19, 2013

April 19 - 1 Samuel 28-31; Psalm 18: Saul Joins Samuel; David Saves His Family

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 28-31; Psalm 18

The Message

English Standard Version

Congratulations! You have completed 10 books of the Bible (that's two whole hands!)

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Saul finally hears a word from God—but it's not what he expected.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Saul, not receiving a word from God when the Philistines camped against him, went to a witch to speak to the dead Samuel. Samuel said Saul and his sons would die in battle.
The Philistine army did not want David's men with them. David's men returned to find their city ransacked and their wives and children kidnapped. David asked God if he could catch them. Everyone was returned safely. A quarrel broke out among the men as to who should share the spoils. David instructed them to share equally.
Israel's army was defeated and Saul with his sons were killed.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 18

David praises God for saving him and helping him through his troubles. God is a steady rock in a world that wobbles terribly. God brought him out of terrible oppression and gave him a great reward in return. David thanked God for saving him and his family!

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Saul has resorted to violating God's Law to receive a message from Him.

God forbade sorcerers and witches. Saul knows this but is desperate for a message from God. Since his pride has prevented him from repenting and asking God to save him, he must go to a witch to speak to Samuel. When we leave God we resort to desperate acts.

David consults God before going after his wife and children.

There is no time to lose. If he leaves now he can catch them before it's too late. Yet David takes time to ask God if he would be able to find them. What great faith David has to first ask God before taking on such an emotional chase. We should always consult God before doing any task, no matter how urgent.

David sets things right when he shares the spoils with all of his men.

Two hundred of David's men were unable to continue the chase for their wives and children. The men who fought the raiders wanted to cut them out of the spoils since they did not do the heavy lifting. David would not hear of it, instead insisting that they share equally among all who played a part in rescuing their loved ones. God sets things right when His Chosen People share with all their brothers and sisters—not only those who do the work.

God is worthy of great thanksgiving!

As a transition from David's calls for justice against his enemies, this psalm presents a wonderful song of praise to God for redemption. God is worthy of our praise!

Is God your bedrock under your feet?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 18 - Psalms 17, 35, 54, and 63: David's Vulnerability before a Caring God - the Essence of Salvation

Today’s Reading: Psalms 17, 35, 54, and 63

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

These psalms show the vulnerable side of David.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 17

David is calling for God's Ear while he defends himself. He wishes for God to test his words to make sure God's way is being done. He states his case against his enemies and wants to see them punished. David will look to God in any result.

Psalm 35

David cries out to God to punish the hecklers, the bullies, the thugs. He wishes to be free from them because they come up from nowhere and bring him down. They party while he is persecuted. David asks that the people who want his best interests have the final say so they together will shout praises to God.

Psalm 54

In this short psalm, David calls on God to help him but realizes God is already there.

Psalm 63

God has been wonderful to David and he cannot get enough of Him! God has protected him and punished his enemies. How great is God!

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

David wants God to examine him first before examining his enemies.

David's call makes himself vulnerable:
Go ahead, examine me from inside out,
   surprise me in the middle of the night—
You’ll find I’m just what I say I am.
   My words don’t run loose.
I’m not trying to get my way
   in the world’s way.
I’m trying to get your way,
   your Word’s way.
I’m staying on your trail;
   I’m putting one foot
In front of the other.
   I’m not giving up. (17:3-5, The Message)
He wants to make sure before his complaints are listened to that he is not calling for their destruction for personal reasons. David wants to make things right because making things right is God's Will. God's Chosen People should first call for their own selves to be examined before examining others.

David does not make his wishes the litmus test for God.

Nowhere does David tell God, "If you don't do these things I will abandon you!" He always couches his cries for justice with expectations of vindication. His praise begins before God saves him. There are no threats or ultimatums. God's Chosen People should praise God for saving them before their salvation comes.
Some scholars can't believe David would be this hopeful and suggest these are written half before and half after the trouble. I disagree because David seems to weave the praise and complaints together in one, large, hopeful psalm.

David wishes for God to stop his persecutors so he will have a chance to continue God's work.

David wants the hecklers, the bullies, and the thugs punished so he will have a chance to celebrate God's great work. He wants to tell everyone how God "puts the down-and-out on their feet / and protects the unprotected" (35:10, The Message). Don't ask God for escape to continue your selfish endeavors. Ask God to release you to sing His praises!

God is already helping David.

In a nice, surprising twist David cries out to God for help as though he were alone; then realizes God is right there helping him all along. Look up! God is helping you already!

David can't get enough of God!

Psalm 63 is so exciting because David comes to see that He cannot live without God—not because he will lack goodness but because he would miss God's Goodness! When we obey God we will become so dependent on His Goodness that to be away from it would be like being away from food and water.

Have you gotten your fill of God's Goodness?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17 - 1 Samuel 25-27: David and Abigail; David Spares Saul (Again)

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 25-27

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David goes outside the normal traditions to marry a righteous woman.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Samuel died. Israel mourned.
Nabal was having a great feast. David requested an invitation for him and his men. Nabal insultingly called them runaway servants. David wanted to kill Nabal and all his men. Nabal's wife Abigail intercepted David and prevented the attack. Ten days later Nabal died. David married Abigail.
Saul chased David again. David and his friend Abishai snuck to Saul's side. Abishai asked to kill Saul. David prevented it. They took Saul's spear and water pitcher. Saul was embarrassed once again.
David moved to Gath to escape Saul's reach. He took up God's punishment of the Canaanites.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Abigail sets things right by taking her husband's blame and begging for peace.

I love this story because Abigail takes it upon herself to defend her husband and his men. Not only does she defend him but she takes on the blame for how David's servants were treated. She remedies the situation by giving the men food in return for their safety. David praises God for sending her,
Blessed be God, the God of Israel. He sent you to meet me! And blessed be your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and taking charge of looking out for me. (25:32-33, The Message
God can set things right when wives (and husbands) defend their spouses even when the spouse does not set things right.

David does not follow the Law but takes Abigail as his wife because she sets things right.

The Law says the next-of-kin should take Abigail and have children for Nabal. But God gave Abigail to him because David loved her for her willingness to set things right for God. God will provide for women who set things right.

David marries more than one woman at a time.

I point this out only to remind us that our "traditional" view of marriage is not necessarily the "biblical" view of marriage. David is considered a man after God's own heart. He has more than one wife (before he is king).

Saul hasn't learned from his past mistakes.

Saul has chased David once and almost died. Because he continues to listen to those who only want war Saul goes after David again. And again he finds himself in David's hand and still alive. The saddest part of this story is that Saul's companions who have convinced him to kill David are not willing to protect him. Beware of your companionship—they can lead you to unwise acts and not protect you during those acts.

David once again protects Saul.

Saul once again wants to kill David. He has a force around him willing to kill all of David's men. Yet instead of finishing Saul off so he could take his place as king, David gives Saul another lesson by taking his spear and water pitcher. God can make things right when His Chosen People respect His Anointed, no matter how they do not live up to that name.

David takes up God's punishment of the Canaanites.

Over 300 years later David takes up what his ancestors could not.

What do you think of Abigail's actions?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 16 - Psalms 56, 120, and 140-142: David Cries Out to God for Protection

Today’s Reading: Psalms 56, 120, and 140-142

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David is experiencing a range of emotions—despair when he is being chased and joy when he is vindicated.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 56

David faces opposition daily from people who want to hurt him. He prays for God to punish them. When they are punished David knows God was the source. He praises God for fulfilling His promises.

Psalm 120

In this short psalm, David cries out to God to deliver him from the warmongers. He yells at the liars and those who want war. He fears that his life will end in exile because no one will offer terms of peace.

Psalm 140

David asks God to remove him from his present company—those who only want to do evil. He calls out for God to thwart their evil plans and allow their words come back to bite them. God is on the side of the victims.

Psalm 141

David asks for God to hear his voice. He wishes to stay away from the wicked ones who are around him. He wants to stay wholly for God. He asks for God to bring chastisement on the evildoers and to protect him from their evil schemes.

Psalm 142

David cries out to God while he feels completely alone and without friends. God is all that he has left. He wants to be rescued so he can praise God in public.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Unlike Job, David knows the source of his troubles.

In a move that makes us feel uncomfortable, David openly asks God to take up his cause and punish his enemies. Unlike Job and his friends, he never believes God is punishing him. He knows that men are the cause of his troubles and he calls out to God for help.

David's joy will come from God protecting him, not God's punishment of his enemies.

David wants to praise God for what He has done. Some of the psalms have the outcome by the end. Others leave the answer up in the air. But all of them have one thing in common—David always praises God for saving him. We should praise God for God's willingness to protect His Chosen People, not His ability to punish our enemies.

David wants peace but any call for peace is met with violence.

In a verse which could describe peace discussions throughout the ages and continuing to now, David laments, "I’m all for peace, but the minute / I tell them so, they go to war!" (120:7, The Message). Peace takes two sides.

David's description of warmongers then is accurate today.

I am writing this in the middle of a peace crisis with North Korea. They are angry with South Korea and the USA because the two countries are practicing what would happen if North Korea were to attack South Korea. it is interesting to hear warmongers on both sides speak of war. They have several doomsday scenarios which always end with hundreds of thousands of casualties. They both try to see how they could single-handedly defeat the countries that would line up against them. So David's description that
All they do is think up new ways to be bad;
   they spend their days plotting war games.
They practice the sharp rhetoric of hate and hurt,
   speak venomous words that maim and kill. (140:2-3, The Message)
serves as an apt description today. God's chosen people want peace and plan for peace. War should only happen when the other side will not stop attacking.

David asks God to keep him away from doing evil.

As much as David complains against his enemies he also understands that he could just as easily fall into their ways. So he cries out to God to prevent his dreams from slipping evil into his consciousness. He wants to be completely different than the ones who face off against him. God's Chosen People should pray that we do not fall into the same evil our enemies are guilty of.

Do you only have eyes for God?

Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15 - Psalms 7, 27, 31, 34, and 52: David Cries Out to God for Salvation from His Enemies

Today’s Reading: Psalms 7, 27, 31, 34, and 52

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

While David is running for his dear life from Saul he praises God!

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 7

David runs from his enemies—right into the arms of God. He acknowledges that punishment would come if he was guilty, but he isn't guilty. He knows those who are guilty are punished openly and obviously. This is why he thanks God for making things right!

Psalm 27

There is nothing that can scare David for God is everywhere! God protects him and keeps him calm. God keeps David going down the right road and helps him through the toughest of times. Stay with God!

Psalm 31

David cries out to God to save him. There is nothing he can trust outside God. He is troubled and mocked by his enemies. Yet he will still serve God because God will protect him and save him soon.

Psalm 34

David praises God after he gets away with Abimelek. He calls for others to help praise God for everything God does. They should see what God does for both the righteous and the wicked. Through sight they will choose God.

Psalm 52

In this lament of Doeg's slaughter of the priests, David tells Doeg how God would defeat him and the punishment on its way. He praises God for bringing justice for the innocent.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God is the refuge for the innocent.

David's psalms exclaim how God protects the innocent. He also realizes that God's protection does not extend to the guilty:
God, if I’ve done what they say—
   betrayed my friends,
   ripped off my enemies—
If my hands are really that dirty,
   let them get me, walk all over me,
   leave me flat on my face in the dirt. (7:3-1, The Message)
God protects the innocent. God punishes the wicked.

God gives (inner) peace to His People.

David is running for his life. Any city or group of people could spell the end of his days running. Yet he is able to say,
When besieged,
   I’m calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
   I’m collected and cool. (27:3, The Message)
He is confident he will see God's goodness. Even though your enemies may encircle you and you feel all but defeated, stay with God! He will give you peace.

David mistrusts religion. He trusts in God.

This part jumps out at me, "I hate all this silly religion, / but you, God, I trust" (31:6, The Message). This mistrust continues the theme begun by God when Saul disobeys God at Geba. God cares more for trusting in Him than being "religious." Anyone can sing a song. Only those who trust in God sing these songs with their full heart.

David calls for the punishment of the wicked.

Once again David writes a psalm where speaks of the punishment of evildoers. This one is more pointed—speaking directly at the person who is doing the evil before shifting in the end to praising God for His actions. What we also should see is that all of the punishment comes from God and not from David.
God will tear you limb from limb,
   sweep you up and throw you out,
Pull you up by the roots
   from the land of life. (Psalm 52:5 The Message)
God will punish those who do evil—not His Chosen People.

Are you betting on the wrong horse? (52:6-7)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 14 - 1 Samuel 21-24: As Saul Chases David the Chasm Between Them Widens

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 21-24

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David proves his righteousness exceeds Saul's evil.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

David ran from Saul. Ahimelech the Priest gave him holy bread and Goliath's sword. David escaped to Adullam where he found shelter for his parents and gathered 400 men to go with him.
Saul condemned Ahimelech for helping David. None of Saul's guards would kill God's priest, so Doeg the Edomite, who saw David, killed the priest and fully destroyed the priest's city of Nob. David blamed himself for the massacre.
Saul was called away to fight the Philistines right before catching David.
Later, Saul entered a cave where a hiding David restrained himself from killing him. Saul pardoned David.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Ahimelech gave David the holy bread because he was hungry and needed food.

This story will be mentioned by Jesus during His ministry. David and his men needed bread and the only bread available was holy bread. God does not "need" our sacrifices. We may use them for other purposes, provided they are used to set things right.

David takes care of his parents.

David leaves his parents with his father's paternal grandmother's people (Ruth, David's great-grandmother came from Moab). During this trying time when David is literally running for his life, he takes time to see his parents out of danger. People after God's heart take care of their parents.

Saul's hatred has blinded him to righteousness so much he is willing to kill God's priests.

Saul's anger and jealousy prevents him from seeing the evil of his ways. Even his own men, who are travelling with him to kill David chafe at the order to kill an innocent priest. Beware of anger and jealousy. They lead down the path of death!

God protects David.

God would not allow Saul to capture David. David goes to Keilah and they were willing to turn him over to Saul. When asked, God tells David to leave. Later, God prevents Saul from capturing David by calling him away to fight the Philistines. God protects His Chosen People when they seek after His Heart.

David proves his righteousness by not killing Saul when he had the chance.

God has handed Saul to David on a silver platter. He is alone and (to put it cleanly) unable to fight. All David needs to do is take his sword and chop off Saul's head. Saul has tried to kill David twice. He condemned David to death. He tried to kill Jonathan. He slaughtered an entire city of priests. It is better to stop the bleeding! Yet David does not take his chance, "God forbid that I should have done this [cutting the royal robe] to my master, God's anointed, that I should so much as raise a finger against him. He's God's anointed!" (24:6, The Message). David knows no matter how wicked and evil Saul becomes, he is still God's appointed king over Israel. God's Chosen People respect God's appointed leaders no matter how unrighteous they become.

How has your hatred, anger, and jealousy blinded you to the truth?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

April 13 - 1 Samuel 18-20; Psalms 11 and 59: Saul and David's Relationship Heads South

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11 and 59

The Message 

English Standard Version 

We have reached the section where reading the Bible in chronological order comes in handy. Since many of the psalms are attributed to David they will be intermingled with the narrative when they fit the circumstances. We will have days of narrative, days of narrative and psalms, and days of psalms only. Today is a mixture. Having the Psalms interspersed throughout the history helps to put them into context and heighten the understanding we can have of God setting things right.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David impresses everyone—much to Saul's consternation.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Jonathan and David were soul mates. David excelled at everything. The women sang his praises more than Saul's. Furious, Saul tried to kill David twice. Hoping David would die, Saul gave David his daughter Michal if he killed one hundred Philistines. David and his men killed two hundred. Michal loved David and helped him escape during one of Saul's fits. God embarrassed a naked, babbling Saul when he chased David to Naioth.
When Saul told his servants to kill David, Jonathan tried to intercede for his friend. Saul almost killed his own son. Jonathan and David cried when they parted.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 11

This short psalm by David sets the record straight—God is not moved, so why should I run?

Psalm 59

David writes in response to Saul's command to kill him. He cries out to God to rescue him and defeat his enemies. He requests a slow punishment on the wicked to prevent any confusion as to the source of their comeuppance. While they do their evil works at night he sings by night and day the wonderful nature of God.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God's Spirit causes David to gain allies on all sides—which infuriates Saul.

David has now earned the love and respect of Saul's children, his army, his servants, and the general public. The women now sing David's praises more than Saul's. When we allow God's Spirit to move us, the whole world works for us.
However, one person does not like David's new popularity—Saul. Saul sees in David what he once was and wanted to become. Because he rejected God and took control over God he no longer had the love and respect of his people. Instead of repenting and joining David in serving God Saul tries to kill him in fits of rage and hatred. When we allow God's Spirit to depart from us, nothing can replace our joy.

Jonathan becomes a peacemaker.

Jonathan wants to set things right between his father and David. He campaigns for David twice, succeeding to suede his father once. He even allows David to hide while Saul has a death sentence against him. In the end, Jonathan's friendship comes between him and his father, with Saul throwing a spear at him in public. God can set things right when people make peace between enemies.

God's business is setting things right and we can be as straight as God if we join Him.

David's psalm is absolutely brilliant:
God’s business is putting things right;
   he loves getting the lines straight,
Setting us straight. Once we’re standing tall,
   we can look him straight in the eye. (Psalm 11:7, The Message)

David calls on God to set things right by punishing the wicked slowly.

David's psalm against Saul's men seeking to kill him shows God's purpose of punishment. The call is not for God to slowly wipe them out so they would die horrible, painful deaths. The purpose for their punishment is to bring justice upon them and contrasts the difference in God's treatment of the wicked and righteous. God's Chosen People can call for the punishment of others—when we want God's justice to reign on Earth and others to learn from their mistakes.

What prevents you from standing upright to see God eye-to-eye?

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12 - 1 Samuel 15-17: God's Spirit Moves from Saul to David

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 15-17

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The final straw for God against Saul was his want to offer as holy what God told him was profane.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God sent Saul to destroy the Amalekites. The army kept some animals to sacrifice. God regretted appointing Saul as king. Samuel confronted Saul by saying God did not want his empty sacrifice but instead wanted Saul's obedience. Saul begged to worship God again then he and Samuel parted ways forever.
God wanted Samuel to find a new king from the sons of Jesse. The seven older sons were inadequate. David, the youngest, was chosen and given God's Spirit—the one once in Saul.
Goliath, an extremely-tall Philistine warrior, taunted Israel. David killed him in the name of God. Saul marveled.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Saul's final sin as the legitimate king was disobeying with good intentions.

In what will become a theme for the duration of the Old Testament, Saul angers God for trying to be religious instead of obedient. God wanted everything associated with the Amalekites destroyed. This was to punish them for their disobedience. Instead, Saul kept some of the spoil. Even though Saul wanted to use these animals to sacrifice to God he was rejected as king. The reason is Samuel's response.

God delights in His Chosen People when they obey Him, not when they are "religious."

As Christians, Samuel's answer hurts.
Do you think all God wants are sacrifices - empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production. Not doing what God tells you is far worse than fooling around in the occult. Getting self-important around God is far worse than making deals with your dead ancestors. (15:22-23, The Message)
We want God to delight in our religious sacrifices. We want Him to ask us to sing, pray, take communion, study the Bible, and give. That's easy. What is hard is obeying His will. What is hard is sacrificing our wants, our needs, what we think might be good because God has asked us to. Worship is not the goal of a Christian's life. Obedience is.
Today we tend to associate attendance at Sunday morning worship with obedience. When someone asks how large your congregation is, you don't tell them how many dedicated disciples there are. You tell them the average Sunday morning attendance. "Attendance" may be the greatest issue facing God's Chosen People today. God doesn't care what the attendance at your church is. He wants to know how many disciples are growing at your church.

God looks at the heart.

Saul's heart was the problem in all of his troubles. He never stayed wholly devoted to God but instead became more interested in his power and pride. He is not willing to obey God because he wants to remain in control, the definition of sin. That is why God rejected Saul. God does not want your body. God wants your heart. You body obeys your heart.

David receives God's Spirit.

This is an important point to remember, especially when David sins against God in the future. David prizes God's Spirit because it gives him life. God's Spirit gives life!

God's Chosen People fight in God's name. Their enemies fight with swords and spears.

David's answer to Goliath's ridicule gives the reason God is never equally-matched, "You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel's troops, whom you curse and mock" (17:45, The Message). Do not fear those who attack with physical weapons. They are no match for God's Chosen People who attack with the name of our God!

Has God helped you slay your giants?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April 11 - 1 Samuel 13-14: Pride Takes Down Saul's Kingship

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 13-14

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

After a promising start, Saul's pride does him in.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Saul kept an army ready to fight at all times. Jonathan, his son, led the charge at Geba.
Samuel arrived late so Saul, to prevent desertion, presented a sacrifice to God. Samuel replied that God was looking for Saul's replacement—someone who would seek out God's heart.
Jonathan and his armor bearer sent the Philistines into a mad confusion. Israel took chase.
Saul foolishly forbade his men from eating until the battle's end. Jonathan ignorantly violated the law. Famished, others ate animals with their blood. God departed from the camp. When Jonathan was found guilty the soldiers prevented his execution.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Saul does exactly what God said a king would do (and shouldn't do).

Saul keeps a standing army to make himself strong. God directly forbade doing this. The reason is simple—when a king has a strong army around him he begins to trust his own strength and not God's. This is why he can't wait for Samuel. His power is going away. When we make ourselves out to be strong separate of God, we fall into temptations.

Saul's sin is not waiting on God.

As mentioned in the previous thought, Saul fears a loss of power if his people leave. So he offers a sacrifice. Samuel arrives immediately and gives him his fate—God has taken his authority away because he would not wait on God's prophet. We must work on God's timeline, not our own.

Saul's curse ultimately makes Israel's army sin against God.

This curse is completely unnecessary. His victory is all but certain. There is nothing to indicate the army would desert him before finishing the job. Ironically, the men are too famished to continue fighting and begin eating meat without letting the blood run out first. This is a great sin against God. It happened because Saul wanted revenge instead of God's will. Leaders must not lead their people to sin through unnecessary, arbitrary rules. However, we must also see that even unnecessary, arbitrary rules set by God's leaders are binding. God leaves the camp because of Jonathan's sin.

Jonathan's salvation shows Saul's lack of conviction and God's unraveling of Saul's reign.

Saul has cursed any man who ate before evening. Jonathan has been tried and found guilty. Because the army defends Jonathan, Saul does not execute his son. If his authority were intact the army would defend him instead of his son.

Saul's ultimate downfall was pride.

Pride lead to both of his sins: impatience and revenge. He will have his victory over the Philistines no matter what. So he does not wait for God to bring Samuel. He does not allow his men to eat and curses his own son. Beware—pride brings the end of great people!

How has pride kept you from waiting for God?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April 10 - 1 Samuel 9-12: Saul is Anointed King, Spares His Detractors

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 9-12

The Message

English Standard Version

Congratulations! You have read the Bible for 100 days!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Saul begins his reign by not executing his detractors.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Saul, Kish's extremely-tall son, came to Samuel's town searching for his lost donkeys. Samuel gave Saul important news—Saul would be king. Saul completed several tasks given by Samuel and prophesied. Saul became king. A small group would not recognize Saul's legitimacy.
Nahash tormented Israel. The townspeople of Gilgal sent a message asking for help. King Saul led the Israelite army to victory. Saul praised God for the victory.
Samuel reminded Israel what God had done for their ancestors and how they rejected His leadership. God warned that no king could protect them if they returned to sin.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God chose Saul as king.

Later God will tell Samuel not to look at the physical features of a person. But now God has chosen someone who stands out in a crowd. This means there was something in Saul's heart that God saw and wanted to bring out. We must not jump to a hasty conclusion that Saul was only chosen because of his looks. God chose Saul, not Israel.

Saul would not hurt his detractors.

In a promising moment for the young king Saul, he is presented with the opportunity to unify the nation in his favor by removing negative voices. Instead, he allows the ones who mocked him to live, giving glory to God. God's Chosen People need not fight against those who question their worthiness.

God reminds Israel—no king can save you when you take control over me.

Why does God continue to tell the people they have rejected Him when they want a king? Because Israel no longer believes God can save them. So they want a king to unify the people's army and attack their enemies. What they do not understand is that by doing this they have usurped the only thing that could save them—God's protection. Now their protection is no longer in the God who is setting all things right. Their protection is in the might of a king who will save them. Put your hope and trust for physical and spiritual salvation in the God who sets all things right, not in a central government. Instead of turning to God in their losses they will now blame their king. This cuts off God's ability to correct them by calling them back to Him.

Would you give glory to God when you could instead silence your worst critics?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April 9 - 1 Samuel 4-8: Israel Wars with the Philistines

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 4-8

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The Philistines learn of God's superiority over their own gods in a painful way.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Israel warred with the Philistines. Hoping to change their fortune, they brought along the Ark of the Covenant. They lost again. The Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and killed Eli's sons. Eli fell over and broke his neck at the news.
The Philistines brought the ark into their god's house. The god was destroyed. The people in every city developed tumors. They returned the ark voluntarily.
Samuel told the people to rededicate themselves wholly to God. When this happened they defeated Philistia.
Samuel's sons were wicked. Israel wanted a king. So God allowed them to appoint a king.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God is not a talisman.

The Israelites thought by bringing the Ark of the Covenant to the battle God would follow. Unfortunately for them, this was the wrong decision. God is not a talisman who can only affect things where His objects go. What Israel forgot in this moment was that God protected them when they obeyed Him. Because they were not wholly for God He would not protect them. When we are wholly for God nothing can defeat us. When we are not holy nothing can save us.
Later, when Samuel tells the people to throw out their other gods, God defeated the Philistines for them. It is the same Philistines, the same Israelites (20 years later) but a different result. The difference? Holiness.
How does this translate to today? Luck. Some may think certain objects (such as crosses, images of Bibles, sending chain emails—the scourge of the Internet) can give you good luck or blessings. That is not at all true! Being holy gives you good luck and blessings. Carrying a talisman or forwarding an email about God will not make you lucky or blessed.

The Philistines feared God.

In an ironic twist, bringing the Ark of the Covenant encouraged the Philistines,
Their gods have come to their camp! Nothing like this has ever happened before. We're done for! Who can save us from the clutches of these supergods? These are the same gods who hit the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues out in the wilderness. On your feet, Philistines! Courage! We're about to become slaves to the Hebrews, just as they have been slaves to us. Show what you're made of! Fight for your lives! (4:7-9, The Message)
The Philistines feared God and fought with all of their might to prevent God from defeating them. Even people who do not have a personal relationship with God fear Him and are given victory.

When Israel no longer wanted to rule themselves they rejected God as their king. This came with negative consequences.

In a comforting statement, God reassures Samuel that he was not the cause of the people wanting a king. They rejected God. This is an interesting statement because many interpret Judges' statement that "At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing" (21:25, The Message) to be negative on Israel's morality. Yet God is giving the exact opposite remark. When there is no central, ruling authority the people are more likely to obey God. When a central authority comes they spend more time consolidating power than obeying God. The negative consequences will be read in the upcoming books.

Share this blog post with 10 people and God will give you victory over that pesky rodent plaguing your life!

Monday, April 8, 2013

April 8 - 1 Samuel 1-3: God Blesses Hannah and Calls Samuel

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 1-3

The Message

English Standard Version

Today we begin 1 Samuel. This book begins with the birth of Samuel, continues through the kingdom of Saul and ends with David becoming king.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Compare the faith of Hannah, a barren woman, and Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of God.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

There was a man, Elkanah, who had two wives. Hannah, his favorite wife, had no children and was crushed by her barrenness. One year, while praying, she promised to dedicate her firstborn son to God. So God gave her a son. And Hannah dedicated him to God. When Hannah gave Samuel over to God she prayed a great song of joy. She visited him once a year.
Samuel served Eli in the tabernacle from a small boy. Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were wicked men—embarrassingly bad for God. So God took Eli's priesthood promise and gave it to Samuel.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God blesses Hannah with a son because she vowed to give him to God.

God realizes Hannah was serious about her vow. So God gave her a son. And she fulfilled the vow. God blesses us when we whole-heartedly vow to use what God has given us to set things right on the earth.

Hannah's prayer is worthy of a Psalm.

Hannah's song is both a great prayer to God and a jab at Peninnah (Elkanah's other wife). Peninnah has taunted Hannah for not having any children. The prayer comes from a heart long burdened with wanting a son and now must give him over to God, only to see him once a year. Yet she is not bitter or resentful of her vow. This may be why God gives her more children.

Hophni and Phinehas' sins were so great God took away Eli's part of the priestly promise.

What should not be lost in this story is God's punishment of Eli. Since Eli has not taught his children to honor God he now shares in the punishment—his family's priesthood ends with them. God's promises can be revoked when we do not obey Him.

What do you think of Hannah's prayer?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

April 7 - Ruth: Everyone Setting Things Right

Today’s Reading: Ruth

The Message

English Standard Version

Today we read an entire book in a day, a great story of love. This story is a favorite for many people. So let's get to reading.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Ruth is the story of a non-Chosen Person who honors God both by mouth and by action and becomes the grandmother of Israel's great king.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Elimelech took his family to Moab during a famine. His two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. All three men died. Naomi, Elimelech's wife, released them. Both refused at first but Ruth never budged. Naomi and Ruth returned to Israel.
Naomi sent Ruth to Boaz's barley field to glean. Boaz, impressed by Ruth's uprightness, allowed her as much grain as she could take. Naomi was elated.
Naomi told Ruth to ask Boaz to redeem her husband. Boaz first went to a closer relative and when he refused Boaz took Ruth as his wife. They became the grandparents of David.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Naomi sets things right by allowing her daughters-in-law to return to their families.

Naomi realizes her daughters-in-law are still young (most likely less than 30) and could possibly marry other men and have happy lives. So she realizes her situation and asks them to go home.

Ruth sets things right by standing by her mother-in-law's god.

Orpah should not be slighted when reading this passage. She refuses to go at first. But Naomi convinces her to go. However, Naomi could not convince Ruth to go. In fact, Ruth makes a statement which any Israelite would have found surprising coming from a Moabite,
Don't force me to leave you; don't make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I'll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I'll die, and that's where I'll be buried, so help me God - not even death itself is going to come between us! (1:16-17, The Message)
In a time when Israel could not be bothered to obey God, a Moabite woman sets things right. God can set things right through anyone willing to do His will.

Boaz sets things right when he allows Ruth to glean among his workers and when he marries her to redeem his relative.

Boaz does not need to allow Ruth to glean. He can leave the corners of his field, the forgotten sheaves, and the fallen grain in the field for her. But instead, because Ruth was willing to set things right, he set things right for her by allowing her all he could offer. Later, when he (rather drunk) learns of her want to be redeemed he follows the Law and offers her to the closer relative. When that relative decides not to take Ruth he marries her and redeems his family member. God can set things right through His Chosen People when they do His will.

God sets things right by giving Ruth children and Naomi grandchild.

What should not be lost in this entire story is how God sets things right. Naomi and Ruth have children because God allows Ruth to give birth to a son. Boaz becomes the grandfather of the king after God's own heart because God allows him to have children. God sets things right on the earth!

Can God set things right through you?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April 6 - Judges 19-21: Civil War to Purge Evil

Today’s Reading: Judges 19-21

The Message

English Standard Version

Congratulations! You have made it through yet another book of the Bible (#8). The most depressing part is over (for a while, at least). Look for a great story tomorrow.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God's Chosen People do not want to fight their brothers but they have no choice.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

A Levite man and his concubine stayed in Gibeah, a city in Benjamin’s land. Unable to get at the Levite to molest him, Gibeah's men raped his concubine until she died. The Levite sent pieces of her body to the tribes. They sent representatives and decided to kill the men of Benjamin. They each swore not to marry the tribe's daughters.
Before each battle, God directed their steps and allowed the tribes to defeat Benjamin.
Distraught, the surviving Benjamites asked for wives for their sons. The other tribes allowed them to take wives from the people who did not fight.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

This story shows how evil God's Chosen People could become.

This story is out of chronological order—it happened near the beginning of the time of the judges. This story brings out the similarities between Sodom and Gomorrah and Gibeah. When Sodom and Gomorrah defiled God's land He rained fire upon them and destroyed the cities. In one way Gibeah is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. They did not have a covenant with God. They were not God's Chosen People. God had not saved their ancestors from slavery. God did not give them land. Gibeah had no excuse. God's Chosen People have no excuse to do wicked acts.

The people of Israel are rightly outraged and are willing to act.

This is important for the entire story. It is not enough that the man has provided proof of what happened. Israel must act swiftly to purge the evil from the land. So they fight. God can set things right on this earth when His Chosen People are willing to police themselves.
What does this mean for Christians today? This part is difficult because we have such different communities of Christians who are no longer in one culture. Several churches attempt to police the entire Christian world even though they have no influence on the ones they are trying to change. They preach sermons, they write "open letters," they teach classes about what other churches do, and they tell each other how bad these groups are. These acts are not the same as what went on in Israel. The best place to apply this text is our local congregation, our local towns, our spheres of influence. Americans getting hot and bothered by what Christians are doing in the Outback of Australia won't change anything until they are willing to send a force to bring justice to these Christians. Condemning the sins of people outside of your sphere of influence from pulpits and gossip is not the same thing as setting things right on the earth.

The tribes ask God to measure their response.

Israel does not want to fight Benjamin; however, they must purge their land of evil. This quandary is solved by asking God for the proper response. "They set out and went to Bethel to inquire of God. The People of Israel said, "Who of us shall be first to go into battle with the Benjaminites?" God said, 'Judah goes first'" (20:18, The Message). This continued every day they fought. When God's Chosen People police themselves, they should ask God for the proper, measured response.

May we all obey God and never need policing.

Friday, April 5, 2013

April 5 - Judges 16-18: Sampson Fails to Deliver; a Levite Serves a Foreign God

Today’s Reading: Judges 16-18

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Even God's chosen judges are no longer obeying God.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Sampson fell in love with a woman named Delilah who was bribed by the Philistines to find the source of his strength—his hair. The Philistines shaved Sampson, captured him and gouged out his eyes. When they brought him to a feast for sport he asked God for strength to kill everyone. He destroyed the building, killing himself and 3000+ Philistines.
Micah, a man from Ephraim, made an idol. He employed a Levite as the priest to his idol-gods.
The tribe of Dan took the land Micah lived in and killed all the men. However, they continued worshiping Micah's idol-god.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Sampson fails to fulfill his calling because he is sidetracked by (non-holy) women.

As we read yesterday, Sampson was called before he was born to deliver Israel from its Philistine occupation. Unfortunately, he seems to care more for women than accomplishing God's task. These women would eventually lead to his downfall and the failure of his task. Do not allow non-holy (not wholly for God) women and men to sidetrack you from your God-given tasks.

God gives Sampson one last chance to bring judgment against the Philistines.

Sampson has repented of his lackadaisical attitude and now wishes to fulfill his task, at least die trying. So God gives him his chance. God is willing to help anyone who will do His expressed will—even if the person has forsaken Him in the past. This does not mean God wants us to go and kill our enemies as Sampson did. This means our multitude of failures cannot prevent God from using us to set things right on the earth.

The story of Micah and the Levite show how God's chosen tribe no longer obeyed God.

The book of Judges seems to break down from judge-based narratives to more general narratives. Other Jewish history books have a similar ending. Miscellaneous stories which do not fit the normal theme of the narratives are all placed at the end. The timeline is not explicit, so we do not know when the events of Micah and the Levite took place. What we do know, however, is that the Levite decides to take a job which is not connected to the one God has given the Levites. Micah's gods are not the God who has called Israel, saved Israel, or given land to Israel. Because this Levite becomes a priest to a foreign god the entire tribe of Dan fall into idol worship. Priests must be careful not to lead God's Chosen People to the wrong god!

What has you sidetracked from God's work in your life?