Go ahead…wait! Stop!
1 Chronicles 17: Nathan told David, “Whatever is on your heart, go and do it; God is with you.”
It sounds so right. David’s throne is established and now the Ark resides in Jerusalem. When David tells the man of God that he wants to build a Temple of worship Nathan never hesitates to place his stamp of approval on the project. After all, David is God’s man and who could ever deny God’s man the privilege of building a great house of worship. That night though, God speaks to Nathan. The message is quite a positive one for David. The Lord’s pleased with David and the greatest leader in the history of the world will be one of his descendants. But David isn’t to build a Temple. The prophet is a good man who returns to David the next day to relay this message from God. The “no Temple” thing is brushed aside as David focuses in thanksgiving on the promises he’s just received. Still, I can’t help but think about Nathan at this point. When he tells David to go for it I think his heart’s in the right place. To him, this is a slam dunk that doesn’t even require prayer. He’s probably the most surprised person in the world when he hears this word from the Lord. Really, I don’t think Nathan does anything wrong in this story. His reaction to David’s suggestion has the earmarks of a good man who delights in God being honored and served. Still, his reaction to the message of the Lord is even better. Think of it: he’s already set sail on this Temple project. In fact, he’s granted permission in the Name of the Lord for it to proceed. Then, with just one word from the Lord he pivots one hundred eighty degrees and goes straight to David with the correction. This incident doesn’t cause me to fear having opinions and reaching conclusions based on the facts as I know them. It does, though, teach me not to hold too tightly to those conclusions. Even as a dedicated Christian, I often reach the wrong conclusions. Nathan’s story is a good lesson in how I’m to respond when I realize that has, once again, happened.
Take Away: For godly people to have godly opinions is a good thing, but even such people and such opinions are subject to God, himself.
1 Chronicles 16: God is great — well worth praising!
It’s a world class worship service. A tent has been pitched for the purpose of housing the Ark of the Covenant and that Ark is being brought into Jerusalem for the first time. King David, himself, leads the procession, joyfully dancing before the Lord. The great worship leader, Asaph, leads the choir in singing praises to God. They sing a wonderful song of praise and worship in which they recount the wonders the Lord has performed and declaring “God is great — well worth praising!” They sing of God’s goodness and love and holiness. When the song has ended, the congregation responds with shouts of “Amen” and “Praise God.” What a holy event! Know what, I’m glad that such worship services aren’t just for the pages of the Old Testament. I’m glad that there are times when the people of God go all out in praising him and that at such times the Lord comes close, filling such holy moments with himself. This passage reminds me of awesome worship services I’ve been in. Even more, it creates in me a desire to occupy such holy ground again, real soon!
Take Away: The great worship events of the Bible, along with worship events we’ve experienced personally, provide the inspiration and desire to once again enter into the presence of the Lord.
Anointed worship leaders
1 Chronicles 16: That was the day that David inaugurated regular worship of praise to God, led by Asaph and his company.
Having secured his hold on Israel and having brought the Ark to Jerusalem David moves to establish regular worship services. It’s quite instructive to see the lists of, not only the mighty warriors who fought with David, but of “mighty worship leaders” as well. We thank God for those who have the bravery and skill to protect us from those who would harm us. Such people are worthy of our admiration and thanks. Here, I’m reminded that those who are gifted and trained to lead me into the Presence of the Almighty are also people worth my deepest appreciation. Also, I see here that David feels worship services are important enough to merit the appointing and organizing of specific worship leaders. That doesn’t mean that those who aren’t “official” can’t lead in worship, in fact, they often do. Some of the finest worship services I’ve ever seen were led by ordinary people with little formal training but who knew something about getting into the presence of the Lord. Whether a person’s “on salary” or not is a poor reflection of whether or not they’re gifted in leading genuine worship. I thank God for worship leaders who usher us into the presence of the Lord. Thank God for anointed people.
Take Away: Some people are gifted to lead in worship, thank God for them.
1 Chronicles 15: God exploded in anger at us because we didn’t make proper preparation and follow instructions.
This is the second effort David has made to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The first ended with death. David says that was because the proper preparations and procedures weren’t followed. This time things will be different because he’s paying better attention to the details. There’s nothing like the Ark in Christianity. Many traditions have holy objects but none of them are revered as was the Ark. There’s a reminder here of the importance of sacred places and things. For instance, there are places that are special to me because I’ve had especially powerful encounters with God in them. Maybe you have your mother’s old Bible and just holding it causes you to feel not only closer to her, but to the Lord. These things aren’t the same as the Ark or, later on, the Temple’s Holy of Holies. Still, though, as I see David making plans to move the Ark, I’m reminded of the power of some things that have been used by the Lord to connect me to him. I don’t worship them, but they are precious to me.
Take Away: It’s a good thing to be reminded of times and places where the Lord has seemed especially near.
I’ll just trust God anyway.
1 Chronicles 13: God erupted in anger against Uzziah and killed him because he grabbed the Chest.
The death of Uzziah is shocking to me even as it is to David in this passage. They’re doing a good thing, bringing the Chest of God back from obscurity to its rightful place of honor in Jerusalem. Everyone agrees that it’s “the right thing to do.” For transport they go so far as to build a brand new cart and David and others lead the way in a joyful procession. It’s at the threshing floor in Kidon that disaster strikes. The oxen pulling the cart stumble and Uzziah, who is, it seems, somehow involved in the mechanical part of the move reaches out and touches the Ark to steady it. That’s when the shocking thing happens. God strikes Uzziah dead for showing a lack of reverence for this holy object. If you expect me to explain all this away I’m afraid I must disappoint you. Even David who’s right there is frightened by what he’s just seen. He decides to put the Ark in the building there, unwilling to bring it to Jerusalem. It may be that Uzziah didn’t really need to steady the Ark and only used the incident as an excuse to reach out and touch it. After all, everyone knew that the Ark was to be carried with poles so that the Levites who were entrusted with the task wouldn’t ever actually touch it. However, that’s just speculation. Ultimately I’m left with my belief that God’s character is pure love and that he never acts in a way contrary to his character. This situation, like a million others, is beyond me. It’s another of those “I’ll just trust God anyway” situations we find in both the Bible and in our own lives.
Take Away: Happily, our salvation isn’t based on knowledge, but is, rather, based on faith.
Department of human resources
1 Chronicles 12: Hardly a day went by without men showing up to help – it wasn’t long before his band seemed as large as God’s own army!
David’s cause is a just one. He’s been open and honest and faithful. Still, King Saul knows that his throne is, in reality, David’s. He’s done nothing but be loyal to Saul yet he finds himself named public enemy number one. David withdraws simply to save his own life. However, like a magnet, he begins drawing fellow outcasts. Saul can’t find David, but everyday people just show up and ask to join him. Before long, he commands a force to be reckoned with and some of the great warriors of history are numbered among David’s band. How’d this happen? I think God’s finger prints are all over this. The Lord picked David and now the Almighty’s building his team for the work to be done. Many years later David’s most famous descendant has surrounded himself with twelve good men. Still, there’s much to do. A great harvest beckons, but more workers are needed. Jesus tells his core group to pray that the Father will send more harvest workers. In David’s day people who probably weren’t even sure how they found him just showed up to join his cause. In the Gospels, Jesus puts out a call for harvest workers. Maybe we church leaders should take note of what happens here. If we’re doing what God wants done, he’ll supply the people to do it. The Lord doesn’t use up human resources so we can do what we want to do. However, as we see in David’s case, he has an abundant supply of people to help us do what he wants done.
Take Away: If we’re faithful to the Lord he’ll supply the resources necessary for us to do what he wants done.
Water from the well
1 Chronicles 11: He refused to drink it.
Included in the genealogy of the Chronicles are the names and sample exploits of great warriors who serve under David. “The Thirty,” is a band of brave and capable fighters. This group has an awesome leader and some especially outstanding men called the “Big Three.” At one point David, who’s on the run from Saul, comments that he’d love a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem. However, Bethlehem’s under Philistine rule at the time. That detail doesn’t stop the “Big Three” from fighting their way into Bethlehem, drawing water from the well there, and then withdrawing to bring it to David. David’s overwhelmed by this gift and refuses to drink it. To him, this is a gift too precious to be received as a common thing so instead of drinking the water he pours it out as an offering to God. I’ve never had anyone go to battle to bring me a drink of water but I’ve had some people do some wonderful things for me. When that happens I don’t want to treat their sacrifice as a common thing. Some gifts that are intended for me are so valuable that I know they’re too good for me. When that happens, I can take the example of David, and make it an offering to the Lord.
Take Away: Kindnesses done to us ought to be appreciated. They should also humble us.
Starting at the end
1 Chronicles 10: Saul died in disobedience.
When we first read the story of King Saul in 1 Samuel we get the full treatment, so we know all about how he was anointed and how his rejection of God unraveled his kingship and his life in general. Here, we start at the end of his life. The writer seems to be in a hurry to get to King David and I think I know why. This book is being written to remind the people of Israel where they came from and who they are. The desire is to reignite their connection to one another and to God. Saul could have been the first and greatest king of Israel, but he failed, dying not in glory, but in disobedience. Later on, we’ll work through the failures that led to the exile, but here in the early going the idea is to inspire and ignite enthusiasm. Sad to say, Saul’s story might be good for warning people of pending failure but it won’t do much to unite and give a sense of pride. There’s a time to focus on such things. After all, spiritual failure is a real possibility. For now, though, the writer just wants to set up the story of David and give his readers something to cheer about. Know what? That’s okay with me too!
Take Away: While we know all about spiritual failure it’s good to be reminded of the very real possibility of spiritual success too.
1 Chronicles 9: The first Israelites to return from exile to their homes and cities were the priests, the Levites, and the temple support staff.
After page after page of genealogy we arrive at the wrap up statement that “this is the complete family tree for all Israel.” After wading through the names (or maybe skipping them) we breathe a sigh of relief, ready to get back to the story telling of the book. Instead, there are more names! The writer skips over the years of exile to the beginning of the return to Jerusalem. He speaks of these people differently, though, and it feels as though the writer may be a contemporary of some of these folks. In just a few paragraphs we’ll be back to the story of King Saul and begin marching through the king stories of Israel and Judah. However, having just finished the genealogy followed by the list of early returnees to Israel after the exile, I can’t help but reflect on how connected it all is. Other nations that are exiled are absorbed into the culture of the Babylonian and, later on, Persian empires. These descendants of Abraham, though, hold together. There are changes to their culture and traditions, but they remain a separate people through it all. It’s only because of that that I can read “this is how it ended” followed immediately by “this is how it continued.” There’s only one way to explain it: it’s the Hand of God. This God made promises to Abraham and centuries later to David. Through the prophets, even in the darkest of days before the exile, there’s the promise of restoration. Now, in an almost offhand way I see part of the fulfillment of that. “Here’s the end of the story…now, let’s get back to the story.” Caution: God at work here!
Take Away: The Lord’s faithfulness spans lifetimes and generations. His faithfulness never fails.
1 Chronicles 7: Ezer and Elead [were] cattle-rustlers, killed on one of their raids.
The accounting of Ephraim’s family tree unearths the gem that some of the family were cattle-rustlers. Things got so bad that the natives of Gath caught them and killed them. Their dad was deeply grieved by their deaths and, when a baby was born to the family he named him “Unlucky” to reflect how he felt about things. The story is just thrown in with the continued listing of who was the father of whom, but it does spark the imagination a bit and it feels like we’re hearing about the old American west rather than about life centuries before Christ. I wonder how the original readers reacted to this bit of information. Did they hang their heads in shame or did they sheepishly grin at one another? I think there’s room for both reactions. It’s that way for us too. We can’t escape our connection to family. Sometimes we’re quite pleased with it and other times, well, not so much. At one level, I’m reminded that I’m not above the ups and downs, successes and failures of life. At another level, I don’t need to take myself too seriously. At least, so far as I know, I don’t have any ancestors named “Unlucky.” I’m not as sure about the cattle-rustling though.
Take Away: Don’t take life too seriously – sometimes it’s best to smile and move on.