On the solid rock I stand
1 Chronicles 28: Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. God, my God, is with you in this; he won’t walk off and leave you in the lurch.
The job David is leaving his son is a big one. He must lead Israel and he must build a Temple for the worship of Jehovah God. David wants his son to know that God is utterly dependable. Others will deliberately or accidentally let him down but God remains faithful all the way. With that in mind David wants Solomon to put his weight fully and firmly on his God, and for him to keep it there. That’s good advice to a young man who’s about to become king but it is also good advice for you and for me. Everything and everyone else in life is destined to disappoint us sooner or later. Only the Lord is fully trustworthy. If I look anywhere else, I’ll find plenty of reasons to be anxious and discouraged. In the Lord I find my Rock.
Take Away: We need to pass our faith on to our children – they will need it just as much as we’ve needed it.
1 Chronicles 18: Thus David ruled over all of Israel. He ruled well, fair and evenhanded.
David succeeds on all fronts. Here’s a King who prays passionately, fights successfully, and rules justly. All this could have been said about Saul, but when Saul rejected God, God rejected Saul. Now, finally, the promise made to Abraham long ago has come to pass. His descendants possess the Promised Land and his offspring number in the hundreds of thousands. Israel is now more than a family of wanders or even a nation of ex-slaves. Israel is a nation of the people of God led by the man God, himself, has picked to be their king. The story continues with the ups and downs of life and, as well all know, failure is on the horizon. For the time being though, I think I’ll just camp out here and rejoice with the people of this distant day. God keeps his word. He does good things in and for his people. He enjoys blessing our lives. Yes, this is a good place to hang out for a while.
Take Away: When the Lord blesses us we need to take time to enjoy and appreciate those blessings.
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.
A miracle working God
1Kings 17: The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty….
The drought brought about by the judgment of God is a hardship for everyone. Elijah goes into hiding and for a time God sends ravens to feed him. Now, as the drought brings famine to the land, the man of God is sent to Zarephath for long-term lodging. The widow there is nearly out of food and about to surrender to starvation when Elijah shows up. He makes the startling promise that as long as the drought continues she won’t run out of oil or flour. And that’s how it is. For the duration of the ordeal God supplies the need. It’s good to know that God is the Way Maker in our lives. Only he can make something out of nothing. I need to be careful to not be so blinded by my circumstances that I count God out. Generally speaking, he works through the normal course of life to bless us, but he’s not limited to that. If necessary, he can work his purposes by suspending the laws of Creation and performing miracles. That’s the God I serve!
Take Away: Never count God out.
The big picture
1Kings 4: People came from far and near to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.
Under King Saul Israel becomes a military power. Under David, the nation is united and made secure. Now, under King Solomon Israel becomes an admired, respected nation. It is one thing to be feared and safe and secure and something more to be respected, viewed as a positive contributor to the world in general. That’s what happens as Solomon leads Israel. Those who were enemies or at least subdued rivals now come to Israel in peace to sit at the feet of her wise king and to bring goods for trade. It has taken hundreds of years but this nation of slaves has received the inheritance promised to their ancestor Abraham. I know this is the high water mark for the Kingdom of Israel, but what an impressive mark it is. Because of the patience of power of the Almighty the impossible has happened and Abraham’s journey from Ur to the Promised Land is complete. I know I’m supposed to read this story and be impressed with Solomon, but today, I can’t help but be impressed with his God; a God who makes unbelievable promises to unlikely people and then delivers on those promises. If I ever find myself doubting God, I need to step back from the close up snap shots of the Bible and get the big picture. It’s pretty impressive.
Take Away: We too have huge, amazing promises from the Lord. How thrilling it is to remember that he always keeps his promises.
Singing songs that rhyme
2 Samuel 22: I stood there saved — surprised to be loved!
As a conclusion to David’s story we’re given what is probably a favorite song from the great king. We might call this a displaced Psalm. With characteristic passion and absolute honesty David praises God but also tells of dejection and fear. God answers with earth shaking power. He rescues the one he loves and puts him back on his feet, giving him victory. From that experience, David says he’s learned some things about God. The Lord sticks by people who stick by him. When I turn to him, I find he’s already turned to me. And, even when I know I’m unworthy, I’m surprised by his wonderful love for me. David concludes, “That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.” I see why the writer of these books of Samuel likes this song!
Take Away: The Lord is good to us and we have every reason to sing his praises.
1 Samuel 12: And neither will I walk off and leave you. That would be a sin against God! I’m staying right here at my post….
Samuel’s an old man but he has plenty of life left. If these people had trusted God with the future Samuel would have kept them on the right track for years to come. Then, at the right time, the Lord would have raised up another national and spiritual leader to guide them even as he gave them Samuel. It isn’t going to be that way though. They insisted on having a king and God has given them one. Still, there’s evidence of God’s grace here. The Lord won’t forsake them. If they and their king cooperate things will be just fine. Now, Samuel adds a personal note. Even as God promises to remain faithful, so does he. Really, Samuel can do nothing else. As God’s man his actions must reflect God’s character. It would be unthinkable for him to say, “I represent God, and God is going to stand by you; but as for me, I’m out of here!” People who represent God, those who claim to be his people, reflect God in all their lives. Samuel could have gotten his feelings hurt and just “handed them over to God” but he doesn’t do that. As a man of God I must allow my life to reflect his character even when people treat me unfairly or misunderstand me or hurt my feelings. It’s simply a part of being a man of God.
Take Away: The people of God reflect him in all they do and say – on both good days and bad.
God’s faithfulness continues
Joshua 1: Moses my servant is dead…In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage!
Some people cast long shadows: David, King of Israel; Abraham, Father of Faith; Moses, Law Giver. The only leader the people of Israel have ever known is now dead. Getting used to life without the steady guidance of Moses is going to take some getting used to and that’s especially true for their new national leader. Joshua’s already a proven leader but that leadership has always been under the authority of Moses. As Joshua staggers under the weight of his new responsibility the Lord speaks to him, probably in a way and at a level that Joshua has never before experienced. The great Promise Maker makes a wonderful commitment to him. Moses is gone but God is not. The same God who spoke to Moses now will speak to Joshua. That same Presence will remain. God’s faithfulness continues. Today, I thank God for the “Moses figures” in my life. These people have provided me with leadership, advice, and strength. Still, humanity is limited. Things, and people, change. Sometimes, in fact, with the passing of time our roles reverse. As it was for Moses and then Joshua I place the weight of my hope on the firm Rock of my Salvation. He won’t give up on me and he won’t forsake me.
Take Away: Thank God for people who influence our lives for good, but even more, thank God for his steady faithfulness through the years.
Follow the Leader
Deuteronomy 31: Be strong. Take Courage. Don’t be intimidated…God is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.
There is a bit more to the book of Deuteronomy, but this is the conclusion of thirty chapters of preaching that makes up most of the book. As Moses preaches the people are looking across the Jordan to the Promised Land. They know who lives there and they know that their army isn’t ready to face the superior forces of Canaan. Beyond that, Moses, who is the only leader they’ve ever known, isn’t going with them. The new battles will be fought without their old leader. Well, not quite. Their real Leader is not only right there with them; he’s already confidently marching ahead of them preparing the way in places like Jericho. When Moses at 120 years of age breathes his last God will remain their strong leader. Even as Moses is about to commission his successor, Joshua, he reminds his listeners of God’s faithfulness to them. I thank God for people who have influenced my life by providing vital spiritual leadership along the way. Even more important, though, is the awesome steadiness of God. The finest, most dedicated person has their limits, but not the Lord. As Moses says, “He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”
Take Away: The Lord is our faithful Leader and as we follow him, we can do so with confidence that he won’t let us down and he’ll never forsake us.
He never has failed me yet
Deuteronomy 8: So it’s paramount that you keep the commandments of God…walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him.
The road God has led them down has not always been easy. At times, they’ve been pushed to the limit. Still, in all of it God proved faithful. There has been manna from heaven, perpetual clothes and shoes, and many other direct evidences of God’s steady faithfulness. The fact of the matter is that while their wilderness journey is about to end, there are more times of testing to come. Those same giants that scared their parents off 40 years earlier still live down the road a few miles ahead. The cities are still fortified and the armies there are still superior. Moses says they need to learn from the past as they move to the future. I’m reminded today that sometimes God leads me down roads that scare me to death! Still, as the old song says, “He never has failed me yet.” With that in mind, I walk down the roads he shows me. If he says, “go” that means he’ll go with me and make a way even when I can’t imagine how it can all work out.
Take Away: The Lord never leads us where he doesn’t go with us.