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

Friday, May 31, 2013

May 31 - 1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 72: Solomon Asks for God's Wisdom to Set All Things Right

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 72

The Message

English Standard Version

Today marks five months and 150 days of reading the Bible through in a year! Keep going, you're almost halfway.

Today we begin reading 2 Chronicles. It will lead us through the life of Solomon, the split kingdom, Israel's downfall, and Jerusalem's eventual destruction. Since it chronicles similar events to the books of 1 and 2 Kings (along with several of the prophets) it will take almost three months to finish it.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God blesses Solomon with all of the perks of setting things right because he asked for the wisdom to set all things right.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Solomon arranged peace with Pharaoh. He sacrificed 1000 animals to God. That night, God informed Solomon he would receive anything he asked. Humbled by his position, he asked for God's wisdom. God granted it.
Two prostitutes fought over a child. Solomon suggested splitting the child in half. The real mother willingly gave up her claim to save him, so Solomon gave the boy to her. Everyone in Israel stood in amazement at Solomon's wisdom.
Solomon's house and city were filled with people and great riches. Solomon's wisdom surpassed that of any sage from any place in the world. Trade flourished.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 72

In this Solomon psalm, he writes in honor of his request given to God. He asks for wisdom, protection for the poor, and justice to tyrants. The enemies of God will fall because God will help all people. May God live and never be forgotten! Blessed is God! Yes!

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

God chose the best son of David.

David's sons are not known for being very moral people. One son raped his sister and two sons stole his throne before he died. Solomon, however, is completely different. He is so humbled by his position of authority that he wants God's help to rule. When God chooses a leader, He has chosen the best.

Solomon asked for the wisdom to set all things right. So God gave him the perks of setting things right.

Solomon's request was for a higher blessing because the other blessings would have set some things right but only for a short time. Instead, Solomon wanted to set all things right:
Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people? (1 Kings 3:9, The Message)
Ask God for blessings that will set all things right.
All of the other blessings of money, wealth, fame, the doom of his enemies, and long life were given to Solomon because they are the result of setting things right. They may not be universal or the only things you receive when you set things right; nonetheless, the troubles that you receive when you set things right pale in comparison in the end. When we set things right, we will receive fame, fortune, long life, and the downfall of our enemies.

Solomon's decision in the dispute between the two prostitutes set things right.

What at first may seem a barbarous act, cutting a child in half, in reality was the decision that set things right. The true mother was willing to give up her claim on the boy to save his life. Because of her willingness to sacrifice herself instead of her son, Solomon settled the dispute in the right way—reuniting mother and son. In any dispute, seek the decision that will set things right—even if it may be strange or counterintuitive.

Solomon was greatly blessed by God.

God promised Israel that if they gave to the poor He would bless them to the point that
there would be no poor among them. Because of Solomon's great wisdom and humility God's blessing came true—the city became so blessed by God that there were virtually no poor people in the city. When God's People seek God's wisdom and act upon it, there will be no needy people among them.

All of the world will fall down and worship God because of His greatness.

Kings far and famous, rich and powerful, polytheists and atheists will worship because they see God's great works,
Because he rescues the poor at the first sign of need,
   the destitute who have run out of luck.
He opens a place in his heart for the down-and-out,
   he restores the wretched of the earth.
He frees them from tyranny and torture—
   when they bleed, he bleeds;
   when they die, he dies. (72:12-14, The Message) 
The greatest part is that this god is our god! How blessed is God, our god! All earth shows His Glory! Yes!

What would you ask for if God were willing to grant anything you asked?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30 - Psalm 119:1-88: Ode to God's Way Found in God's Word - Part 1

Today’s Reading: Psalm 119:1-88

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading is the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. Because the psalm is so long we will split it up into two days' worth of reading. This is the only chapter that is split because of length.

In a technical detail, the psalm is arranged as a grand alphabetic acrostic, meaning the sections follow the Hebrew alphabet and the first word of every line within that section begins with that letter. There is no easy-to-find English equivalent to this setup; however, there are about a dozen of these types of psalms found in the Bible.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Consider what God's way will do for you.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 119

In this ode to God's way, the writer continuously praises God for His Way that protects His People who study them in His Word.

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

We are blessed when we stay on God's Course.

That is the first way the writer begins praising God's Way. When we stay on the straight road that may seem boring to some, we prevent a life worth regretting. Want to live a life free of regret? Stay on God's course!

While people around you waste time talking about others, be absorbed in God's counsel.

One of the main reasons misunderstandings and problems happen between individuals, groups, and whole cultures centers on the fact that they spend a large amount of time telling each other about that person or those people. These actions cause two issues: 1) they have no time for building relationships with the people they are discussing; and 2) they are bound to get facts mixed with opinion and vice versa. Instead of listening to blabbering about people who are not there (because who would gossip about a person standing right in front of you listening?) do something worthwhile—learn God's path! When this happens, you will find yourself happier, less stressed, and a better person.

Ask God for eyes to see His ways.

This psalmist writes "Open my eyes so I can see / what you show me of your miracle-wonders" (v. 18, The Message). We ask that God provide us the ability to see Him working. We do not call God to work around us because God is already at work around us!

Do you have a bend for God's words of wisdom or of piling up loot?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29 - 1 Kings 1-2; Psalms 37, 71, 94: Solomon Carries Out David's Last Wishes

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 1-2; Psalm 37, 71, 94

The Message

English Standard Version

We begin 1 Kings. It records the death of David and the life of Solomon. It continues on through the divided kingdom up until the death of Ahab. Today we say goodbye to the greatest king of Israel, David.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David uses Solomon to bring judgment on his old enemies.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

David's servants brought the virgin Abishag to keep him warm.
Adonijah, spoiled by David, called himself king with Joab's and Abiathar's approval. David repeated his promise to make Solomon king with a parade in Solomon's honor to proclaim his legitimacy.
Adonijah begged for his life. Solomon granted it.
As David lay dying, he made Solomon promise to uphold God's commands and avenge those who hurt him in the past.
Adonijah was executed while asking for Abishag's hand in marriage. Abiathar was exiled. Joab was executed. Shimei violated the terms of his house arrest and was executed.
Solomon reigned in peace.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 37

David warns against envying wicked people. If you bring yourself before God humble, open, and righteous your enemies will soon be gone. The wicked are obsessed with hurting the righteous, but in the end they become comical farces. God never abandons His People when they obey Him. God grants a protected, safe life.

Psalm 71

The author runs to God for salvation from the wicked, bad bullies. Since childhood God has never abandoned His People. Don’t start now! The author wants to sing a song of praise to God while those who oppose God are ashamed.

Psalm 94

God, how long will you sit idly by while the wicked get away with murder? You idiots, you think God doesn't know what you do? Blessed are those who are trained by God. He was on my side when I needed Him. Nothing can defeat or trick God.

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

Once again, David's sons cause him problems.

Once again, David's lack of disciplining his children hurts his kingdom. David already had one son rape his sister and another son take his throne. Now Adonijah has disregarded his father's wishes and made himself king. Parents, discipline your children to prevent headaches in the future.

Joab has turned against David.

You might feel sorry for Joab because he fought for David for so long. He even followed David's orders to take a census of Israel's fighting men. Then Joab was embarrassingly demoted when he killed the traitor Absalom. One cannot help but think that all of these issues led to Joab siding with Adonijah. However, Joab was not a great man. He murdered Abner when he came to discuss peace with David. He killed Amasa as they went to war against Sheba the traitor. Joab was a complex man, but David's and Joab's disdain for each other prevented good communication. Treat your greatest friends with care, they can become your greatest enemies. In Joab and David's case, this enmity caused the death of the former because of the promise made to the latter by his son.

David's last words to Solomon are similar to God's justice.

David's last will and testament to Solomon isn't for the weak. David wants to punish Joab and Shimei because they sinned. Joab murdered two men in cold blood. Shimei cursed David. However, he also blessed the sons of Barzillai. This mirror's God's setting things right because the ones who were guilty were punished but the sons of the righteous were blessed. God will punish all of those who are guilty but bless the offspring of those who are righteous. Before we focus on God's punishment let's consider God's blessings on those who have not earned their blessings.

Solomon carries out justice with mercy.

He does not execute Abiathar because he was God's man even though Abiathar sided with Adonijah. This also fulfilled God's prophecy to Eli that his family would no longer serve as priests. Joab, however, would not be spared. He had killed during peacetime, so he must be punished,
Absolve me and my father’s family of the guilt from Joab’s senseless murders. God is avenging those bloody murders on Joab’s head. Two men he murdered, men better by far than he ever was …. Responsibility for their murders is forever fixed on Joab and his descendants; but for David and his descendants, his family and kingdom, the final verdict is God’s peace. (2:31-33, The Message)
Shimei is allowed to live but is under city arrest. When he violated his terms of arrestment he is punished. Setting things right does not always lead to the absolution of punishment; however, punishments can be lessened.

Envy what is God's and try to succeed by His ways.

If you want to succeed, follow the actions of those who have a long reputation of success. God has an eternity of success. The wicked have a short-spanned success story that ends badly. Don't succeed like them! Envy God's success and emulate His actions to succeed.

God's People will never be in the streets.

This may sound like an overstatement. It also smacks of the Prosperity Gospel that is going throughout the world. However, we must read this as it is meant, as a comparison of God's ways to the wicked's ways. No person that obeys God goes hungry, not because they will always have high-paying jobs that give them lots of disposable income. God's People will never go hungry and live in the street because they are part of a community that sets things right through sharing God's blessings with each other. When we see people who want to go at life alone they may find themselves alone and unable to provide for themselves. When this happens, the best course of action is to surround them with a community. I am a living testament that God's people will never be in the street. When I needed help surviving I have always had a group of God's people willing to help us through. Someday I hope to do the same.

God will never abandon His People!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28 - Psalms 111-118: God's Love and His People's Trust - The Formula for Salvation

Today’s Reading: Psalms 111-118

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

These psalms hinge on trust and faith in God.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 111

God's works are so great that they deserve a lifetime of study! Thank you, God! What He gives never goes out of style. The good life begins with respecting God.

Psalm 112

Those who fear God are blessed with healthy children and wealthy homes. Good people have good reputations with honored and beautiful lives. The wicked try to fight but cannot.

Psalm 113

Those who serve God should rejoice! God is a blessing that never ends. Nothing compares to Him and His Works. Hallelujah!

Psalm 114

After Israel left Egypt the earth went out of its way to not hurt them because God was in their presence.

Psalm 115

It is not for our sake we call on God to show His Glory!

Psalm 116

God is worthy of love because He saves us. What can we give back to God? Prayer and obedience. I'll do what I promised God I would do.

Psalm 117

God's Love has taken over! Hallelujah!

Psalm 118

Thanks be to God because His Love never ends! Everyone, join in. God saved us when we needed refuge.

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

God's works are worth a lifetime of study.

These psalms all show wonderful aspects of God's love for His People. What is wonderful about God is that His Works are worthy of endless praise. God's Works are worth studying because they are pure love. The fact that thousands and thousands of people have dedicated their lives to studying God's Ways and have not exhausted its description proves the psalmist correct: God's works are worthy of a lifetime of study.

Blessed are people who fear God.

Psalm 112 provides several reasons why God's People are blessed. They may not have easy lives, but their lives are not tossed to and fro because of rumors or gossip. They know that God will protect them in the end if they continue to respect Him. To ease troubles, honor and respect God.

We ask God to save us, not for our sake but for God's sake.

What an interesting description. His People do not ask that God save them to make them great. They ask for salvation for God's name to be great. If God's People are ruined, God looks bad among the nations. If God's People are protected, God looks good among the nations. This was Moses' argument when he asked God not to punish Israel. We want the world to compare their gods to our God. If they see God as superior, they will convert. Ask for protection and help from your troubles because of how the world will see God, not how the world will see you.

God's People shout: God's Love never quits!

Psalm 118 provides a great template for God's People to tell the world about God's Love. God responded to our cries and saved us from death! Blessed are those who trust in God! Tell the world—God's Love never quits!

Has God's Love taken over your life?

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27 - 1 Chronicles 26-29; Psalm 127: David Passes the Crown to Solomon

Today’s Reading: 1 Chronicles 26-29; Psalm 127

The Message

English Standard Version

1 Chronicles (book 12) ends today. As often in 1 Chronicles, skip chapters 26 and 27 if you are short on time. They list the Tabernacle's security guards, accountants, tribal administrators, and supply officers.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Compare Solomon's coronation to David's first coronation.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

David, unable to build God's Temple because he was a violent man, made Israel's leaders promise to help Solomon build it. He gave Solomon the plans.
David later repeated to all Israel his wishes for Solomon to build a place to meet God. The Israelites gave jewels and precious metals to build the temple. Everyone blessed God. The next day they offered thousands of animals as offerings. Then they ceremonially made Solomon king. Israel unanimously promised loyalty to Solomon. God blessed Solomon greater than his predecessors.
David's reign lasted forty years. He died peacefully as an old man.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 127

Solomon warns that unless God is the builder of a house or city, there can be no adequate protection. Children are the best gift from God.

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

David never officially sealed the census numbers.

After being punished for taking a census, David abandoned his plan and never followed through. David learns from God—when God doesn't want you to do something, stop.

David is building consensus of support for Solomon to build the Temple.

The Temple will be a large project that will take decades to complete. David realizes Solomon is too young and inexperienced to lead the people through this tough task. So he makes them promise to help Solomon complete this large endeavor. Leaders, help build consensus among the group for your successors to lead in peace.

David publically hands the baton to Solomon.

To help Israel know Solomon is God's and David's choice for the next king, David charges Solomon with his task in front of all the people. Now no one could claim Solomon was the illegitimate king of Israel. Leaders, transfer power publically to help smoothen transitions.

The Temple was a place for community-building—with people and with God.

The Temple was meant for the nation of Israel to meet and sacrifice to God. It was meant to unify the people around one common objective—worshiping God. In an added benefit, this would also become the place for God to be with His People. This dual function is essential to the legitimacy of the building. Without community-building it becomes a shrine that the people fight over. Without community-building with God it is a ritual place that had no real purpose.
Churches today should also serve both functions—places to meet God and other people. Churches should not be a place only for social gatherings where we sing old songs like dead people and offer up prayers to the ceiling. However, churches should not become so sacred that any notion of community-building brings on accusations of lowering the sanctity of the building. We need to do both.
However, churches are not God's Temple today. Our bodies are (we'll read that in the New Testament). So our bodies should also take on that dual function as well. Treat your body as a place to meet God and meet others.

God wants our true selves.

As David praises God for the Israelites' willingness to give so that the Temple could be made, he includes this great saying,
I know, dear God, that you care nothing for the surface - you want us, our true selves - and so I have given from the heart, honestly and happily. And now see all these people doing the same, giving freely, willingly - what a joy! (29:17, The Message)
When God's people give willingly and freely, God can set things right.

All of Israel swore allegiance to Solomon.

Compare Solomon's coronation to Saul's coronation and David's coronation. It's no coincidence that Solomon was blessed by God more than Saul or David. He had Israel's complete loyalty before taking office. When God's Chosen People follow God's Chosen Leaders, God blesses both greatly.

Do the leaders of your group have your complete loyalty?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 26 - Psalms 131, 138-139, 143-145: Limitless Praise to a Limitless God

Today’s Reading: Psalms 131, 138-139, 143-145

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Sit back and let David's praise wash over you.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 131

The writer humbly submitted to God and reminds Israel to wait on God with hope.

Psalm 138

David thanks God for all God is. All the earth gives thanks to God for what He has to say. David asks that God strike his foes and save him during times of trouble.

Psalm 139

David believes God is everywhere. How wonderful to have a God who is limitless! God shaped David in every intimate detail and from the very moment he existed in the womb. God's thoughts are beyond comprehension. David tells the wicked to leave—he hates them with the hatred of God. He calls on God to investigate his life so he can be guided to eternal life.

Psalm 143

David wants God to answer his prayer. His enemy has hurt him badly and David wants an answer quickly. He is ready and willing to listen for God's justice to lead him the right way.

Psalm 144

Blessed is God who has helped these puffs of air called humans. David calls for God to come and show His power while he sings a new song to the God of his salvation. He calls for blessings on his children and fields. How blessed are God's People!

Psalm 145

David praises God unceasingly because God is infinitely praiseworthy! Everything about God is amazing and marvelous. God is the eternal benevolent dictator who everyone trusts because He is pure right. God does what is best for everyone! Praise God!

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

When the earth hears what God has done, they will sing of God's glory.

Christians for years have struggled to find some way to tell the world about God. Books have been written in every decade giving new approaches to Bible study. However, they fall flat unless they include David's words,
When they hear what you have to say, God,
   all earth’s kings will say “Thank you.”
They’ll sing of what you’ve done:
   “How great the glory of God!” (138:4-5, The Message)
When you do not know how to evangelize, tell the world about what God has done.

God is everywhere. God has a hand in everything. God's thoughts are incomprehensibly good.

Psalm 139 is long because David details all of the areas in which God has been with him or has had a hand in his development. This is why he ends the psalm by telling God to investigate his life. He knows that he will be set on the right path. Submit to God's investigation of your life—He will set you down the right path.

God's reputation is salvation.

David asks that God help him through his troubles in many of his psalms (so much so that I have tried different ways to write the same thing to prevent boredom). In every one David knows God will save him—sometimes more certain than others. Why does David know God will save him? Because God has a reputation of saving David and his ancestors. He saved Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, the children of Israel, and Ruth—just to name a few.
Today, we also have lists of people for whom God has proven trustworthy. This is God's reputation—salvation!

God will never get voted out of office.

God may be a benevolent dictator, but He allows everyone in the world to choose to obey Him or not. Once people understand what God has done and how magnificent His Way is, no one (in their righteous mind) would vote against God! This is why God can be both a dictator and still be voted in. When people learn how wonderful God's Ways are, they will always vote for God.

How blessed are the people who have God as their god!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 25 - 1 Chronicles 23-25: David Commissions the Levites for Worship

Today’s Reading: 1 Chronicles 23-25

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading has a lot of name and technical details. Read the first six verses, then skip down to verse 24 and read to the end of chapter 23. The rest consists of each father and his family being given each task.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Notice how important worship is taken.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

David, now an old man, transitioned power to Solomon. David called all of the Levite men thirty and older for assignment in service to God: worship in the sanctuary, officials and judges, security, and musicians.
Since Israel was at peace in their own land, the Levites no longer needed to carry the Tabernacle. They could fully dedicate themselves to God's House. They became in charge of everything related to worship.
When the individual tasks were given out, all men were treated equally: young, old, teacher, student. Each task was chosen by lot.

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

David wants to set everything right for his son before he takes over.

David knows his life will end soon. In a nice gesture, he wants to make sure everything is set for Solomon to transition easily. Help leaders of the next generation begin their jobs with ease.

Israel takes worshiping God seriously.

The Levites were chosen by God to be Israel's priests. David wants to make sure worship is done properly and done well. So he takes the 38,000 men and sorts them into every aspect of worship. Even the music of worship has an orchestra of 4,000 people. These were not Toms, Dicks, or Harrys asked to pick out a few songs ten minutes before worship began. They were masters at their art commissioned to perform before Israel and God. Worship of God should be done with foresight and led by those who have mastered their art, not last minute frantic searches for who's here.

Each job in worship was chosen based on chance, not according to age.

"The families of the oldest and youngest brothers were treated the same" (24:31, The Message). Even the musicians were chosen by chance.
They were well-trained in the sacred music, all of them masters. There were 288 of them. They drew names at random to see who would do what. Nobody, whether young or old, teacher or student, was given preference or advantage over another. (25:7-8)
If we had this type of delegation in churches today much of the culture wars would be mitigated. Notice, though, they did not ask the security guards come and play music. Each was a master at their own task. Each person should be included in worship as they are gifted—then chosen by chance to do what they are gifted to do.

Do you purposefully arrange worship?

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24: Psalms 108-110: David in Battle with a Bitter Enemy

Today’s Reading: Psalms 108-110

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Today's reading takes us through a battle: before, during, and after.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 108

David is ready to sing God's praises. God, full of joy, makes use of Israel for His purposes. David wants to know when he will get to fight again—with God nothing is impossible.

Psalm 109

David is in the middle of a huge problem—he asks that God not ignore his cries for help. He wants God to punish his enemies with curses or death. David is almost unable to continue. He wants God to help him through these issues so He can praise God!

Psalm 110

God asks David's Lord to sit while God destroys His enemies. God's People join Him in His Quest. David's Lord is a permanent priest. God makes His King rule with confidence.

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

When God's People serve Him, they become His instruments.

Israel becomes God's way of punishing those who do not obey Him—Moab, Edom, Philistia. Each tribe plays a different role but they all contribute to God setting things right on earth. God can use His People to set things right on this earth when they obey Him.

David is very angry at his enemy.

Psalm 109 is disturbing. You leave wondering how an enemy could be so hated. However, even when David is this disturbed with his enemy he will not exact revenge. He calls on God to do that for him. Never let a person drive you to seek your own revenge.

Remember Psalm 110.

It will be quoted at an important place in the New Testament. Whether David understands all of what he is saying or not is interesting but digresses from the main point. What is important is what he said.

Lord, make us instruments for you to set things right!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23 - 2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30: David's Census Gone Bad; Preparations for the Temple

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30

The Message

English Standard Version

After a month of skipping around between three books, you have finished 2 Samuel! That makes 11 books read. Only 55 to go.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Consider how David responds when he sees God's punishment.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

David wanted a census of fighting men. Joab and his officials obeyed under protest.
God, angered by David, spoke through Gad and forced David to choose his punishment: three years of famine, three months of fleeing before his enemies, or three days of an epidemic. David chose the epidemic. Seventy thousand people died. God protected Jerusalem. David cried out in repentance.
God's angel told David to build an altar at Araunah's threshing floor. David insisted on buying it when Araunah offered it for free.
In order to facilitate Solomon's building of the temple, David collected all of the raw materials.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 30

David gives God credit for getting him through his mess. David called out and warned God that he would be very difficult to sell if destroyed first. So God saved David and because of it he cannot stop thanking God.

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

David wanted a census because he wants to know his strength apart from God.

This section is difficult to read for several reasons, the first being that David is punished for doing something God required Israel to do twice. Why would God punish David for doing a census? The reason is simple—God wanted Israel to realize God alone could protect Israel from their enemies whereas David's census was intended to help him see what king(s) he could defeat apart from God's help. Joab understood this when he told David,
May your God multiply people by the hundreds right before the eyes of my master the king, but why on earth would you do a thing like this? 2 Samuel 24:3, The Message
This is why David is punished—he thought he could do everything alone.
Today, we should caution against participating in church censuses or discussing church sizes. **Note: State censuses are different than church censuses.** A census automatically puts people in the mindset of "look what we built" or "look what is falling apart—what can we do to save it." Discussing church sizes is widely known among pastors and preachers as a topic of much consternation and anxiety. If our goal is to have God grow a community through which he can set all things right, censuses and church sizes are tangential at best and counterproductive at worst. You didn't build that! Don't do a census! (Or spend time looking at blog statistics.) If people see God setting things right through you, they will want to join and God will bring them to you.

The people of Israel are punished because David sinned.

I believe this is why David cries when he sees the angel of God outside the city. He realizes his people have been punished because of his sin and his unwillingness to run from his enemies. When God's Chosen Leaders sin, the people perish.
At the same time, this episode shows David's love for his people. I love his prayer to God,
Please! I’m the one who sinned; I’m the one at fault. But these sheep, what did they do wrong? Punish me, not them, me and my family; don’t take it out on them. (1 Chronicles 21:17, The Message)
Leaders, love your people enough to ask God to punish you instead.

David wants to set things right by sacrificing to God—not going through the motions of an offering.

Araunah understands what is going on and trusts that David's offering would set things right. To facilitate it and honor David, Araunah wants to give him everything. However, David understands that blood is not what God wants. God wants our sacrifices to show our humility before Him. David could not offer a free sacrifice on free wood set on an altar erected on free ground. He had to pay for all of it—not even at a discount.

David finishes well.

In leadership studies, "finishing well" means that you not only finish your own work strong but you set your predecessor up to succeed. David does just this when he arranges to have all of the materials to make the Temple quarried and set aside for his son. Leaders, set your predecessors up to succeed. Challenge everyone to follow their lead.

God gets angry once in a while, but across / a lifetime there is only love (Psalm 30:5).

What an interesting way of putting it. God does get angry from time to time but even his anger is couched in love. God gets angry because He loves us and does not want to see us punished!

Has God turned your mourning into dancing?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22 - Psalms 95, 97-99: Psalms in Times of Peace

Today’s Reading: Psalms 95, 97-99

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

These psalms are peaceful psalms.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 95

Come, let us praise God through worship and bowing down because He made us and called us His Chosen People! He tells Israel not to make the same mistakes they made in the wilderness.

Psalm 97

God reigns! The entire earth shows God's power and majesty. All other gods must bow to Him. So His Chosen People should praise God!

Psalm 98

Sing to God because He sets things right! He remembers His Chosen People. They praise him with orchestras and bands—a great tribute to the one who sets things right!

Psalm 99

God rules from heaven! God's great beauty is evident. He is holy! He loves justice and sets a firm foundation for His Chosen People. He is holy! He spoke to us through His priests. He is holy!

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

God reigns!

What a refreshing thought after the emotional week last week!

God sets everything right!

David learned this from his trials during his life. God loves justice. All who follow God know this. God sets everything right! Praise God!

God is holy!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21 - 2 Samuel 22-23; Psalm 57: David's Final Words of Praise

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 22-23; Psalm 57

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Read 2 Samuel 22 with the mindset of a polytheist learning about Israel's god.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

David finally had peace from all of his enemies. He praised God for being his rock, his refuge, his salvation. God protected him from his enemies through awe-inspiring, grand spectacles of power. He reached down and pulled David out of his troubles.
David's last words gave honor to God as the impetus behind his psalms. He warns to stay away from evil ones for they will seek to destroy God's People.
David's top men included three elites—Josheb-Basshebeth, Eleazar, and Shammah—and thirty second-tier fighters, all capable of great deeds on the battlefield.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 57

David, hiding in a cave from Saul, calls out to God to shelter him from the hurricane and protect him from the lions and trappers. David is ready to sing praises to God for his salvation. David begins his praise!

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

David's praises would resonate with polytheist of his day.

We read through some of these lines and think they are uncommon—at least not the way we speak of God today. However, we must see David's words in light of their cultural surroundings. Israel's neighbors on all sides were polytheists. Their gods had impressive stories of great power. However, no matter how great their stories may have been, David's god was greater than any god. This is why he uses such vivid language:
Earth wobbled and lurched;
   the very heavens shook like leaves,
Quaked like aspen leaves
   because of his rage.
His nostrils flared, billowing smoke;
   his mouth spit fire.
Tongues of fire darted in and out;
   he lowered the sky. (22:8-9, The Message)
We might consider this a missionary psalm for David. He is calling to people who live elsewhere to consider the God of Israel. Sing God's praises to people who do not know God as their god with hopes that they come to know Him.

David's praises also show the timelessness of his other psalms.

As antiquated as this version of David's words may be, it highlights how well his other psalms have aged. Consider the 23rd Psalm's imagery of a lamb protected by a shepherd. Although most Americans do not own sheep, we still understand what a shepherd does. How wonderful that God passed down such a great number of poems that help describe the life of a person dedicated to setting things right for God.

All of David's psalms were written through God's Spirit.

At the end of his life, David gives honor and credit to God for all he has done. His words were from God. He uses his last words to warn against those who are "the devil's henchmen" (23:6, The Message).

May we use our final words to give honor to God for all we have done in our lives!

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20 - Psalms 5, 38, 41-42: God Heals the God-Seekers

Today’s Reading: Psalms 5, 38, 41-42

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God lifts us up when we are down.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 5

David wants God to listen to his groanings for help. God has nothing to do with evil and David is humbled to be in His House. Evil people breathe poison gas but God welcomes with open arms.

Psalm 38

David asks God to slow down his punishment. He is flesh and bones because of his sin. David longs to be with God but he is blind, alone, betrayed, and unable to communicate. He is about to go over the edge and calls for God to help quickly.

Psalm 41

David knows God will nurse him back to health. He asks God to put him together again. David has a bad reputation. He knows God is on his side because God knows him intimately. Blessed is God always! Yes!

Psalm 42

The sons of Korah are like a deer drinking in God. They were once at the head of the worship line. Now they are in the dumps. To help endure their troubles they review all God is and what God has promised. When they feel down, they fix their eyes on God. Soon things will look up again.

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

God is famous for welcoming God-seekers.

David has repeatedly mentioned the idea that God does not want us to be "religious." God wants us to seek after Him. He wants us to set things right, as He does. That is why he welcomes God-seekers. God welcomes anyone who will seek after him—and set things right.

God dignifies those who are down on their luck.

Being a Chosen Person of God does not mean we will always have things go our way. In fact, it may be the exact opposite. Yet what makes God significant and worthy of our praise is that He is willing to lift us up when we are down. God nurses us back to health. Praise God for setting us right when we are down and out!

Fix your eyes on God—He will lift you up!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19 - 2 Samuel 19-21: The Fallout of Absalom's Fall

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 19-21

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Today's reading is the aftermath of Absalom's reign.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

David wept over Absalom's death so much that his soldiers felt unimportant to him. David reconciled with Shimei and Mephibosheth, who declined Ziba's land. Barzillai insisted his servant Kimham be given David's offer to move to Jerusalem.
Sheba defected; Israel followed.
David sent his concubines who stayed in Jerusalem to a separate home.
Amasa failed to muster soldiers for David and paid for it with his life.
Sheba was killed in Able Beth Maacah.
God told David to repay the Gibeonites for Saul's sin: seven sons of Saul. He took Saul's, Jonathan's, and the seven sons' bones and buried them.

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

David's love for Absalom blinded him to those who actually cared for him.

Joab acted as a bucket of cold water to David. He helped him see how his mourning over Absalom, a traitor who had treated him badly, hurt his relationship with the very people who protected David with their lives,
What is this - loving those who hate you and hating those who love you? Your actions give a clear message: officers and soldiers mean nothing to you. You know that if Absalom were alive right now, we'd all be dead - would that make you happy?" (19:6, The Message)
Do not let your disappointment for those who you loved spoil your love for those who love you.

Israel continues to be wishy-washy.

Israel cannot decide who they want to serve. Here is David, the one with God's Spirit, chosen by God to lead them to great victories, and brought peace to their land. Instead, they choose Absalom, the usurper, and Sheba, the feckless. In the end, this story should help give us comfort. The masses have never been able to stay loyal to one side or another. Leaders, do not expect a congregation to be behind you at all times. If they did not stay loyal to David—a man after God's own heart—what chance do you—a normal human—have?

David forgives Shimei.

Shimei shows the fruit of his forgiveness. He could have run away and never faced David again. However, he does not. He comes and risks his life by apologizing. David realizes this and forgives him. Set things right with those who persecute you—especially when they ask for forgiveness.

The people in Abel Beth Maacah set things right for David.

They are worried that Joab and his army are going to sully God's name within Israel and among the nations by destroying an ancient town. When they learn of Sheba's doings they set things right for David by cutting off Sheba's head. All Joab needed to do was ask. Before barging into a place demanding justice, have a conversation. It might get you further.

Starting in chapter 21, these stories may not be in chronological order.

I do not normally discuss technical details about the Bible; however, I believe this tidbit is important before moving through the rest of the book. Hebrew narratives were passed on orally so the stories were thematic. When the books were codified, the oral stories were brought together—under the auspices of the Holy Spirit. The reason these snippet-stories may have been added at the end of 2 Samuel could be that they did not fit the narrative at the time. Or they were added later after the rest of the book was put together. Either way the stories are equally important. One reason it is significant to write about this is because these sections may fill in holes left by the other stories. Another is that they may not fit together well. For example, why would God wait so many years to punish Israel for Saul's genocide of the Gibeonites? If the book is thematic instead of chronological, the story was added at the end either because it did not fit well in its place or was added too late to get placed in the correct position.

As David aged, his ability to fight waned.

I mention this because it could set up what happened in 2 Samuel 11.

Are you wishy-washy?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18 - Psalms 26, 40, 58, 61-62, 64: David Rejoices at Justice in God's House

Today’s Reading: Psalms 26, 40, 58, 61-62, 64

The Message

English Standard Version

Today we finish 100 psalms! This means there are only 50 left. Enjoy!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David wants to stay far from evildoers—for good reason.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 26

David wants God to clear his name. He has tried to keep it as clean as possible and now asks that God not sweep him out with the trash.

Psalm 40

God at last has helped David out of his terrible problem. Blessed are those who keep themselves out of the world's entrapping and bring to God what He is after. David has helped his congregation understand God's Word and now asks that God help protect him. Blessed are those who hunt for God.

Psalm 58

David complains that government officials are corrupt. He calls God to punish them with reckless abandon. The righteous will rejoice because God's way is right.

Psalm 61

David calls for God to listen to him. God has listened in the past and so David asks that his throne be set in God's light.

Psalm 62

God is David's guide. David chastises bullies for going against God. God is David's guide. Humans are very small, almost nothing except when God strengthens them.

Psalm 64

David calls out to God in a time of distress—help! Conspirators are all around him waiting to seize him. God shoots—direct hit! Everyone knows and praises God for helping take down evil.

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

Even those who live in God's house can be swept out.

David writes,
   God, I love living with you;
   your house glows with your glory.
When it’s time for spring cleaning,
   don’t sweep me out with the quacks and crooks,
Men with bags of dirty tricks,
   women with purses stuffed with bribe-money. (26:8-10, The Message)
It is a sobering thought—especially for people who grew up in "Christian" homes. God will throw out evil ones, even if they live in his own house.

God does not want us to be "religious" or "pious."

God does not desire that His Chosen People bring things to Him or perform "religious" acts. He does not want us to be quiet, nonintrusive, goody-two-shoes. Staying away from novels, music, etc. does not make us wholly for God or set things right. Don't expect your religiosity or piety to impress God.

The righteous rejoice when the wicked are punished.

I remember a few years ago when Osama bin Laden was captured. I wrote a few thoughts as a response to people complaining that Christians should not rejoice when someone is punished for their crimes, that we are all enemies of God at some point or another. However, David's words directly contradict that sentiment:
The righteous will call up their friends
   when they see the wicked get their reward,
Serve up their blood in goblets
   as they toast one another,
Everyone cheering, “It’s worth it to play by the rules!
   God’s handing out trophies and tending the earth!” (58:10-11, The Message)
God's People, no matter how bad we once were, are not the same as unrepentant murderers. We should not rejoice because "we got him!" We should cry out in joy when wrongdoers are punished because it shows how God's way is right!

Let's make praise our habit!

Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17 - 2 Samuel 16-18: The Fall of Absalom

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 16-18

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David holds out hope that the relationship with his son can be reconciled.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Ziba, Mephibosheth's steward, met David with fresh supplies. Mephibosheth had returned to Jerusalem hoping to become king. Ziba was given Mephibosheth's possessions.
Shimei hurled insults at David. David feared these were God's insults and would not hurt him.
Absalom slept with his father's concubines in public.
Hushai convinced Absalom to attack his father with a large force. Hushai then informed David of the plan and David's army escaped across a river.
David instructed his army not to hurt Absalom. Joab killed Absalom, dangling by his hair from a tree.
David wept bitterly over Absalom's death, wishing he had died instead.

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

Mephibosheth betrays David. Ziba earned Mephibosheth's possessions.

In David's attempt to honor Mephibosheth's father, Mephibosheth was given his grandfather's land and servants. Unfortunately, Mephibosheth's heart was not changed. In fact, he had visions of grandeur that he could become king. Why he believes this fantasy is not mentioned in scripture. What is mentioned is that his delusion cost him all he had. Although yesterday's reading is not completely accurate that "everyone" left David, this episode would have felt that way.
Ziba, on the other hand, understood David's kindness and returned kindness. Because of this he, the servant of David's former rival, was given Mephibosheth's property.

Shimei's insults show David's humility.

David cannot allow Abishai to punish Shimei for insulting him because David believes God may be behind the insults. Even if they are not from God, he wants God to redeem him. David, the king, the one running for his life from his own son is humble enough to allow a citizen to heave unwarranted insults at him without penalty. What humility! When we humble ourselves to allow God to set things right we no longer need to force others to respect us.

Ahithophel becomes a victim of his own hubris.

Ahithophel became famous as a self-proclaimed wise man. When Absalom took Hushai's advice over his he went and hanged himself. Beware success apart from God. It can be fleeting and you will not like the end result.

David is still hopeful that his relationship with Absalom will be restored.

This is the hardest part of the entire story to read. Absalom killed David's eldest and favorite son. He overtook David's city and publically embarrassed him. Yet David tells his three generals not to kill the boy. The love of a parent can set many wrongs right.

When David learns of Absalom's death:

The king was stunned. Heartbroken, he went up to the room over the gate and wept. As he wept he cried out, O my son Absalom, my dear, dear son Absalom! Why not me rather than you, my death and not yours, O Absalom, my dear, dear son! (18:33, The Message)
It is impossible to know just how much pain David experienced during this time. It truly was his darkest hour. Rather than explain more, listen to this piece written by Joshua Shank.

Click to open in new tab.
O Absalom, my son!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16 - Psalms 3-4, 12-13, 28, and 55: David Faces His Punishment with Cries for Salvation

Today’s Reading: Psalms 3-4, 12-13, 28, and 55

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David's own best friends are turning against him.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 3

David runs from his enemies who come from nowhere. However, God will be his protector and allow him to sleep well. He wishes for God to help him.

Psalm 4

David once again needs God's help. He complains to his enemies—how long will they keep this up? David gets more joy in his life in God than they could ever get with their shopping trips.

Psalm 12

David is now alone. All have turned against him. He cries for his enemies to be punished. God's words will both purify him and keep him safe from the wicked.

Psalm 13

David is growing impatient with God. He is ready to be rescued.

Psalm 28

David calls out to God in his time of need. He does not want to be lumped in with the serial evildoers because they are so different than him. God is his strength and David wants God to save His Chosen People.

Psalm 55

David needs God to hear his prayer because his enemies are dividing his land. His betrayers are his inner circle of friends. He knows God will hear and answer his prayers. David tells others to cast their cares on God because He will help them and punish the wicked.

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

David faces his perceived punishment by calling out to God to help him.

Yesterday we read David's interpretation of these events. He does not know if he is being punished by God or not. Even if these are the wages of his sin, he still calls out to God to save him. He knows God is the only one who can help him through these trials and punish those who have conspired against him. Call out to God to set things right, even if you feel you are in the midst of God's punishment.

David wants his enemies to trust in God to bring justice.

In an odd utterance, David tells his enemies,
Complain if you must, but don’t lash out.
Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking.
Build your case before God and wait for his verdict. (4:4-5, The Message)
The strange part of his call is that David could be found guilty of these crimes. However, he knows God is just and God will only punish David if he is guilty. Tell your enemies to trust in God—even if it means punishing you.

David is in great emotional stress.

Notice the hyperbole of asking God to "Slice [the liars'] lips off their faces!" (12:3, The Message). David is greatly troubled because his once-certain and safe throne has been violently torn from him by his own son. These are not the words of a cool, calm, calculating man. They are the emotional pleadings from a scared, betrayed follower of God.

David wants to stay away from evildoers because they do not understand God's way.

David is worried that he will be put in the same place as these "full-time employees of evil" (28:3, The Message). The reason is not because they are below him or are somehow inferior to him. It is because they do not understand the God David serves. David wants his freedom because He knows God will punish these people and does not want any part of it.
Many churches today have lost this idea of why separation is needed. Churches are thought of as "holier than thou"—not explicitly but by default. They are seen as separatist because they want to live in their "holy clique" or "holy cult" because they think they are too rich, too high-class, or too good for "normal" people. Churches combat the "holier than thou" attitude (perceived or not) by openly telling that any separation is because of a lack of common ground.

Do you have common ground with God?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15 - 2 Samuel 13-15: The Tragedy of Tamar; The Corruption of Absalom

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 13-15

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

No one consults with God during these events.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Amnon, David's firstborn, wanted his half-sister Tamar. While she pleaded for marriage, he raped and tossed her out.
Absalom created a ruse by invited David's sons to eat a feast. He killed Ammon then fled to escape his father's fury.
Joab, through a widow, convinced David to bring Absalom back; however, David would not see Absalom. Two years later, David and Absalom finally reconciled.
Later on, Absalom usurped his father's throne. David and his servants fled, except ten concubines left as caretakers. Per David's orders, the Ark of the Covenant remained in Jerusalem. David sent Hushai to spy on Absalom.

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

God's prophecy is coming true.

Nathan told David his house would divide and he would be openly humiliated. In a couple of days we will have the second part of David's punishment come true.

Amnon and Tamar show the perils of unabated lust.

Tamar is the victim of a horrific act. She is raped by a man she was willing to marry, and then thrown out as a piece of trash. She was betrayed by her brother, Absalom, when he suggested the plan to Amnon (although he did not know Amnon would treat his sister that way). In the end she lives her life as an old maid, bitter and childless. All of this happened because a man was unwilling to marry the woman he had lusted after. Beware of lust, it leads down a path that cannot set things right.

David does not consult God when dealing with his family.

Tucked away in this story is the fact that David learns of Amnon's deeds but does nothing because Amnon is his firstborn. David should know the Law required Amnon to marry Tamar. Instead nothing happens and Absalom decides to both execute his brother and take his father's throne. What is sad about this story is that David, a man after God's own heart, wants God to guide him in everything except his family. Do not leave God out of your family—lest it lead to disaster.

Absalom becomes the type of person who takes control over God.

Absalom does not learn from his father's example—both good and bad. David consults God in important matters. Absalom, on the other hand, prefers to take matters into his own hands: silencing Tamar to prevent his family's name from taint, executing Amnon through a ruse which scared his brothers and made him flee for two years, and plotting to overthrow his father's throne. Absalom may have lost respect for his father over the Tamar incident. His good looks and amazing hair could have led him to think more highly of himself than he ought. Most likely the two compounded to create a toxic mind-altering state in which Absalom felt justified in his actions. Beware successes (whether your physic or accomplishments) lest they convince you to take control over God.

The story of Joab and the widow is a moral quagmire.

The only thing that is certain is that no one consulted God when discussing Absalom's punishment and return. Who is righteous in this matter is uncertain. God does not provide judgment in the text. Not all stories in the Old Testament are cut-and-dried, black-and-white moral stories.

David has the Ark of the Covenant returned to Israel because he does not know if God is with him.

David realizes his mistakes. He realizes he missed opportunities to set things right and does not know if exile is his punishment from God or the consequences of Absalom's wickedness. So instead of claiming God is on his side and demanding the return of his throne he instead gives Zadok these orders,
Take the Chest back to the city. If I get back in God's good graces, he'll bring me back and show me where the Chest has been set down. But if he says, "I'm not pleased with you" - well, he can then do with me whatever he pleases. (15:25-26, The Message)
Humble yourself when you feel persecuted—it may be God's punishment. If not, God will restore your state.
This could be a good lesson for churches today. Many places in the USA are antagonistic towards churches. Instead of grabbing on to God's name and proclaiming now is "out of season" to preach God, let us be humble and allow God to bring us back. We do not know, maybe it is God's punishment for not consulting Him in our lives.

How have you responded to God's punishment?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14 - Psalms 32, 51, 86, and 122: David Confronts His Sin and His Forgiveness

Today’s Reading: Psalms 32, 51, 86, and 122

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Today's reading is an emotional rollercoaster where David deals with the turmoil of his sin.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 32

Those who confess their mistakes to God and receive forgiveness are blessed. When David hid his sin from God he felt unending pressure inside. When he confessed his sin, the pressure left.

Psalm 51

David cries out to God because he has sinned against Him. He longs for a clean feeling and wants to be with God again. He asks that God keep Zion as his home and heal his land.

Psalm 86

David calls for God's ear to hear and help him. He knows no one can help like God. They have a good history together and David knows God will put him back on his feet.

Psalm 122

David leaped for joy because he was able to worship God again. Jerusalem is a wonderful place for God's presence. May it always have peace!

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

Hiding his sin caused David more pain than confessing them to God.

David adamantly states that his issues were intensified when he kept all of his mistakes hidden from God. The pressure was released when he confessed his sins to God. This is why his advice is to stay on the straight and narrow. He knows going off God's path only leads to heartache and stress. Stay with God and confess your mistakes before God to live stress-free.
Psalm 32 provides the best reason why churches should be places for people to openly confess their mistakes. When churches become museums for good people who never need forgiveness those who feel they don't meet that high standard stay away. Even though no church would consider itself a museum of people above reproach we must understand that our culture views us in that way by default; therefore, churches must overcome the negative stereotype of being a museum for good people who never need to confess sins by openly encouraging and providing time and space for people to admit their mistakes and ask for help setting things right, whether in public or in private. Having a song after the sermon and a quiet, generic conversation about the need for "prayers" cannot be the extent of a church's attempt at setting things right.

David wants to renew his relationship with God.

David knows his mistake with Bathsheba puts him in jeopardy of losing both his relationship with God and his possession of God's Spirit. This is why Psalm 51 has such beautiful and vulnerable language—David wants to make up for all he has done to God. He knows the only thing that can save him is humility:
Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
   a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
   when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
   don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. (51:16-17, The Message)

David has great excitement when asked to worship God.

Allow me to make an unnecessary assumption—Psalm 122 was written shortly after David's son died and he returned to his life. David prayed and wept on the floor for seven days. He felt mournful and greatly disturbed because of how he betrayed God. He knows that his relationship with God was saved through God's forgiveness alone. So the first time someone asks David to go into the Tabernacle to worship God He leaps for joy. All is well again! David continues to have God's Spirit. He still has his position. God has not abandoned him as He abandoned Saul. When we acknowledge what God has done for us, we, too, will leap for joy when someone suggests a time of worship to Him.

What are you hiding from God?

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 13 - 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20: David Messes with a Cover-Up

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David thinks with the wrong head.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

David saw Bathsheba, a beautiful woman, bathing on her roof. He slept with her, knowing she was Uriah's wife. She became pregnant.
David first tried to cover his indiscretion. Then he had the army conspire to kill Uriah and then married Bathsheba.
Nathan convicted David through the story of a rich man taking a poor man's prized lamb. David's punishment would be a divided house, public humiliation, and the death of Bathsheba's child.
David unsuccessfully tried to assuage God's wrath. His son died.
Later, Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon.
David returned to war and a triumphant victory over the Ammonites.

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

These acts seem out of character for David.

As the story progresses, you see flashes of a king who cares little for righteousness and more for protecting his name. It could be that David's power began to corrupt his morals. Beware of great power—it can intoxicate your morals until you no longer set things right.

David's cover-up was worse than his mess-up.

Unwilling to allow his name to be caught in a great scandal, he perpetrated an even worse scandal—the unjust killing of a fierce and loyal fighter. This is why Nathan confronts the murder and not the infidelity, "You murdered Uriah the Hittite, then took his wife as your wife. Worse, you killed him with an Ammonite sword!" (2 Samuel 12:9, The Message). Covering up our mistakes sets more things wrong than the mistakes themselves.

God does not remove His Spirit from David.

Part of why God does not remove His Spirit from David will be seen tomorrow in the Psalms. What should be seen today is that, unlike Saul, God does not remove His Spirit from David. This is chiefly because of David's heart being after God. Notice what happened after Nathan gave David his punishment, "David prayed desperately to God for the little boy. He fasted, wouldn't go out, and slept on the floor" (2 Samuel 12:16, The Message). People after God's Heart are not perfect. They are willing to humble themselves before God when they make mistakes.

David blasphemed against God when he married Bathsheba. But he kept her as his wife.

This is an important part of the story to remember. Not only did David keep Bathsheba as his wife, her next son, Solomon, had God's special love and would eventually become David's heir. God can set things right in any situation, even when what happened to get in the situation was a mistake.

May we learn from David's mistake—and not cover our mistakes!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12 - Psalms 65-67, 69-70: Praise God for Rescuing Us Despite our Sin

Today’s Reading: Psalms 65-67, 69-70

The Message

English Standard Version

I've received many complaints about the comments section. I can't change Google's Blogger commenting system, so funnel all comments to the Sonoma Mountain Parkway Church of Christ Facebook page instead. Thanks to Sharla for posting each day's reading for me.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God knows David's sins but loves and protects him anyway.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 65

God hears our prayers in all times. We expect all good things from our God. David calls down blessings for the land.

Psalm 66

Praise God for protecting us from our enemies! God brought us through a refining fire and gave us a peaceful place. So we bring gifts to Him. Come, let me tell you how God listened to my prayer and stayed loyal to me.

Psalm 67

Everyone sees God's blessings and thanks Him. They enjoy God's blessings and give Him honor.

Psalm 69

David cries out to God for protection. Every time he serves God he is met with more and more problems. He cries out for salvation because he knows nowhere else to go. God will give the land to the righteous, so David cries out for rescue.

Psalm 70

David knows that everyone who obeys God will sing and celebrate. He calls out for God to rescue him quickly because he is about to fall.

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

God takes away our burdens of sins.

This year I have intentionally stayed away from the "sin" angle taken by most Bible studies. I find it overdone, somewhat shallow, and often limits the Gospel to what Dallas Willard calls "the gospel of sin management." However, today's reading drips with this theme. David writes,
We all arrive at your doorstep sooner
   or later, loaded with guilt,
Our sins too much for us—
   but you get rid of them once and for all. (65:2-3, The Message)
Notice that the problem they have is the guilt of their sin. Their problem is not their inability to stop sinning but their inability to stop the self-punishment of their sin. This is why God's removal of our sins provides such a release—we no longer need to punish ourselves for our past sins! Lay the burden of your mistakes at God's doorstep and He will take them away once and for all!

Sacrifices come in response to what God has done for us.

As opposed to many other religions where sacrifices are meant to appease the gods to ask for blessings or prevent the gods from getting angry and punishing the people, sacrifices to God come after God blesses His Chosen People. David brings the choicest cuts of lamb, goat, and beef because God blessed His Chosen People with a "well-watered place." Give sacrifices to God in response to His blessings, not in expectation of greater blessings.

David's enemies blamed him for everything they disliked about God.

Tucked away in this psalm of complaint and a cry of rescue is the short thought,
My brothers shun me like a bum off the street;
   My family treats me like an unwanted guest.

They blame me for everything they dislike about you. (69:8-9, The Message)
Obedience to God brings this type of response. When God's Chosen People obey God, others take their frustrations against God out on them. I write this not to encourage the oft-trumped "Christian martyr" mindset—when Christians think that condemning anyone and everyone is the same as obeying God and see any form of disagreement as persecution—but to encourage those who truly feel unwanted because of their obedience. God will rescue this person—even if it is not when the person expected.

Shouting God's name in praise and in prayer is better than sacrifice.

What is better than a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God? Telling others how wonderful God is to you. Praise God in shouts and prayers—He loves this more than any religious observance!

Are you hunting for God?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11 - 2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19; Psalm 20: Hanun Insults David's Emissaries

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19; Psalm 20

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Hanun allows his leaders to cloud his judgment.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, died. David sent a message of condolence.
Hanun, Nahash's son, was convinced by his leaders that David's emissaries were war scouts. Hanun shamed them by cutting off half of their beards and cutting their robes past their butts.
David allowed his men to re-grow their beards in private at Jericho.
The Ammonites hired 20,000 Aramean soldiers to help fight David's army. At first they all ran from Joab and Abishai's men. Later, they regrouped and fought at Helam. David's army defeated the Arameans and earned their vassal kings' tributes.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 20

David blesses his army—may God bless you in your day of war. He calls out to God to answer on the day of battle.

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

Hanun allowed his leaders to make him paranoid against David's messengers.

The Ammonites and the Israelites had a rocky relationship in the past. However, David and Nahash had a good relationship. But Hanun's leaders allowed the past to overshadow the present. Unfortunately, Hanun listened to these leaders and insulted David's messengers, to his own detriment. Beware paranoid advisors, they may lead you down the road to disaster.

Joab submits to God's ultimate work.

Joab musters his men and encourages them to have courage—if they need backup the other half would help. But in the end he says, "And God will do whatever he sees needs doing!" (2 Samuel 10:12; 1 Chronicles 19:13, The Message). Joab knows that no matter how well they fight, God will win in the end. Submit to God's will even in the midst of a great foe.

David asks God for help with the expectation of help.

David knows God will help his army. So he calls on God to help, tells God what they will do when He defeats their enemies, then tells everyone not to worry—help is on the way! Call out to God—in expectation of getting what you are asking!

May we never think ill of those who come to comfort us.

Friday, May 10, 2013

May 10 - Psalms 50, 53, 60, and 75: God Holds Court; The Righteous Benefit

Today’s Reading: Psalms 50, 53, 60, and 75

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God cares more for the why of obedience than the what of obedience.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 50

Asaph writes of God convening court. God tells Israel that He does not need their sacrifices because everything belongs to Him already. All He wanted was banquets of praise. To the wicked He complains that though they claim to follow His Law they do not love others. God is about to pass His Sentence and show His Salvation.

Psalm 53

The fools have deluded Israel into thinking God is dead. When God looks out He sees a herd of sheep following one of their own instead of their Shepherd. They will be punished, so David cries for a savior to help Israel!

Psalm 60

David is in battle and cannot see God's work. He is afraid God has left them high and dry. He cries out for God to use them because they are ready but need help with their hard tasks.

Psalm 75

God calls His Meeting to order. Asaph warns the wicked not to fight against God because He will smash them to tiny bits. God can also save the righteous from any situation. The arms of the wicked are dry, dead branches. The arms of the righteous are strong, green branches.

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

Although God wants our worship, He does not "need" our sacrifices.

God's message to Israel is that the sacrifices they give Him are not for His benefit but for theirs. If He needed blood He could go down to His creation and kill hundreds of animals. Instead He wanted Israel to praise Him. God wants our praise not our sacrifices.

God's complaint against the wicked: study without application.

I don't like Psalm 50:16-21. I like quoting God's laws. I like talking about God as though we were good friends. I wish He had stopped there. But he doesn't, because I tend to stop with quoting. God requires application of His Law instead of quotation of His Law.

When God's People leave God, they become sheep herding sheep.

Sheep herding sheep is silly. Sheep do not know how to be safe. They don't know where to sleep so that predators don't get to them. They only know how to be sheep—cute, wooly, and dumb. When God's People leave His flock they have no one to lead them. So they set up their own as guide. Don't let sheep guide you!

David feels left behind but not abandoned.

David knows God left because of their lack of faith. Fortunately, He did not abandon them. David knows God will defeat their enemies because no one else could help them. Trust in God, even when you feel He has left. God will never abandon you.

Are you telling the story of God Eternal?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 9 - 2 Samuel 8-9; 1 Chronicles 18: David Honors God and Jonathan

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 8-9; 1 Chronicles 18

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David's obedience begins to pay dividends. David gives those back to God.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

David and his army fought the Philistines, Moabites, and the Zobahites and defeated them all. Arameans came to support the Zobahites and were defeated. David received massive amounts of gold, bronze and horses as a result of God's help. He dedicated all of it to God to be used in God's service.
David wanted to honor his friend Jonathan. Ziba, Saul's servant, informed David of Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son who was paraplegic. David restored all of Saul's land to him and he ate at David's table as a son. Ziba's sons and servants worked Mephibosheth's land.

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

David is earning great rewards for obeying God.

God has promised great rewards for obeying Him. David, a man after God's heart, is not only growing a large house for himself, he is also growing a large amount of wealth. Those after God's own Heart are blessed physically as well as spiritually.

David dedicated all he earned through God's help back to God.

David again proves his heart is after God. Instead of amassing a large fortune for himself, disobeying God's commands, he dedicates all he earns to God. This is why God continues to give victories to David. Those after God's own Heart dedicate what they earn from God's victories to God's use.

David honors his old friend Jonathan.

In a move that would shock any non-Israelite king, David not only allows a member of the previous king's family to stay in the palace, he also gives back the king's land. Saul did many, many bad things to David and yet he wants to honor Saul's grandson. Those after God's own heart seek to honor rather than revenge.

Have you dedicated all God has blessed you with to His service?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 8 - Psalms 25, 29, 33, 36, and 39: Faith in God's Refining Fire

Today’s Reading: Psalms 25, 29, 33, 36, and 39

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

David knows God will punish those who do not set things right—even if it is him.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 25

David cries out to God not to leave him because he has bet everything on God. He worries his enemies will get to him because of his sins but knows God will save in the end, even if they have troubles in the near term.

Psalm 29

David writes of how angels and people shout praises to God because He created all things. He has unlimited power. God gives His People strength and peace.

Psalm 33

People who set things right ought to praise God and accentuate their praises with instruments! God has created all things, defeated His enemies and blessed those who do His Will. We depend on God because He loves us.

Psalm 36

The ones who do evil think they will get away with it. However, David reminds us that nothing slips God's attention. How wonderful is God's love! He keeps His Friends safe.

Psalm 39

David wants to prevent wickedness from seeping through his tongue but it is coming out anyway. He knows he will be punished by God and he wonders how long he has to live. He wants God to forgive him and save him before it's too late.

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

David is not completely sold on God being his protector; but he will have faith anyway.

David is not sure God will always be there. His cry is not for more "faith" but for more sight—visual proof of God's ways. However, these are not doubts. He never tells God he doubts God's ability. David only wishes he had more proof. Although God's Chosen People may not be 100% certain of God's ultimate victory, they have faith that God will win in the end.

What are God-worshipers like?

"Arrows aimed at God's bull's eye" (25:12, The Message). They become God's confidants. They know God's plan because they are able to understand and follow through with setting things right. God worshipers are God's friends who know Him intimately because the world would not accept His ways.

Praise in song and music should come from a outburst of joy because God sets all things right!

We can sometimes get caught up in the minutiae of how to worship God and how not to worship God that we miss the impetus of worship—God is setting all things right! This is why David wants guitars and pianos to help. They help the one praising God to praise God with more of their being! Lesslie Newbigin considered Christianity the "fall-out from an original explosion of joy." Worship can be the outward expression of that joy. Christians should have outburst of praise to God for setting all things right!

Nothing gets by God.

David's warning to the God-rebel is troubling. The rebel thinks God cannot see and therefore he will not be punished. However, nothing slips through God's cracks. This shouldn't conjure the thought of hidden cameras, microphones, or the 4th Amendment. God knows our deeds because God can interpret our true motives, not because he can "see" us at all times. If our heart is not for God eventually it will show. That is what David means when he writes "Not a man, not a mouse, / slips through the cracks" (36:6, The Message).

God's fire is terrifying because it will burn all things we hold dear that do not set things right on the earth.

Psalm 39 conveys how many of us feel when God is helping us rid ourselves of all things unholy—meaning not-wholly-for-God. We are afraid that God will purge us!
    But I can’t take it much longer.
When you put us through the fire
    to purge us from our sin,
    our dearest idols go up in smoke.
Are we also nothing but smoke? (39:9-11, The Message)
Our only reply in the end is, "Give me a break, cut me some slack / before it’s too late and I’m out of here" (39:13). Going through God's refining fire may feel terrifying but in the end God will leave only what is wholly for Him. Have faith in the process.

What personal idols have you seen go up in smoke in God's refining fire?