Back to the future
Micah 5: Bethlehem…from you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel.
It becomes quite clear to anyone who reads through the Old Testament prophets that speaking of future events is not their job one. Most often they focus on current events, calling people to a genuine walk with God and to living just lives as his people. However, once in a while, they’re given pretty specific insights into God’s plans. You might say that they get a glimpse of the future – not as though the future is out there to be seen if you just know how, but that the Lord shares some specific part of his intentions. As Micah describes God’s plan to remake his people he gets a glimpse of the coming shepherd-leader and realizes he will come from David’s home town of Bethlehem. In the years to come, that little revelation will grow large in the minds of God’s people. And well it should, this is something concrete, a test to be applied in identifying the Messiah. Meanwhile, Micah doesn’t dwell on this juicy bit of revelation and moves on to describe the ministry of the One sent from God. Clearly, there’s a lot to think about as I read things like this but today I’m simply reminded that God doesn’t do stuff by accident. In this passage, we find the Lord planning 700 years into the future where he intends to do something connected to an event just as distant in the past. That is, he plans for the Messiah to be born in the town where the greatest King of Israel’s history was born. The Lord not only has specific plans for the future but he also has the heart of a poet in those plans.
Take Away: The Lord doesn’t do things by accident.
The children of good stewardship
1 Chronicles 29: It was all yours in the first place!
Centuries before Paul ever writes to Corinth, encouraging them to give selflessly and stating stewardship principles, David lays out some giving concepts for the people of Israel. They’re raising an offering for the construction of the Temple and David’s addressing the Almighty in prayer. He’s reminded that this nation began as pitiful slaves in Egypt, without a square inch of land to call their own. Over the years God blessed them and now they can no longer say, “Silver and gold have I none.” Still, in a real sense they continue to have nothing of their own. All that they have has been graciously provided to them by the Lord. As plans are being made to build a House of Worship it only makes sense that they return a portion of that which has been entrusted to them that the planned building might be constructed. The people come through with wonderful generosity and David prays that this giving spirit might always be seen in their lives. The result of all this is the Temple. Also, there’s a wonderful spirit of celebration. Great accomplishments and great joy: these things are offspring of good stewardship.
Take Away: When the people of the Lord are faithful stewards of all the Lord has placed in their hands great things are accomplished to the glory of God.
More than a meeting house
1 Chronicles 29: This is not just a place for people to meet each other, but a house for God to meet us.
David is raising funds for the construction of the Temple, which will be built by his son, Solomon. It’ll be an extravagant place of worship and the hub of the life of the nation. It’ll also be the place where God will meet with man. As the people of Israel grasp this lofty concept they begin to joyfully and generously give. “Sacred space” has always been important to the people of God. It isn’t that God can’t meet us out in the common places of life because he certainly does. It remains though, that setting aside times and places for the express purpose of encountering the Lord is not only biblical, but is spiritually beneficial too. Note that this passage doesn’t describe the creation of personal, private spiritual hide-a-ways. This passage reminds us of the value of having a place set aside for the purpose of cooperate meetings with the Almighty. As the people of God, we have much to gain by creating sacred space in which we wait upon the Lord together.
Take Away: We aren’t intended to be “Lone Ranger” Christians.
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.
Seeking and being found
1 Chronicles 28: If you seek him, he’ll make sure you find him.
In his old age David’s ready to hand the kingdom over to his son, Solomon. David has accomplished much during his years as king of Israel. Most notably he’s unified Israel and made them “one nation under God.” David well remembers his predecessor, Saul. He knows that Saul failed, not because he lacked the ability to lead, but because he turned away from God. David’s charge to Solomon is to seek God and serve God with all his heart. The good news is that when a person does that God is drawn to him. I’m glad today that God isn’t hidden from me. I don’t have to perform some elaborate dance to get to him. In fact, he’s already made the first move, providing me a way to himself, planting his grace in my heart before I’ve ever thought of him. When I start to come to God, I may think that I’m starting some long and mysterious journey. That’s mistaken. When I start to come to God, I think I’m a “long way off.” I take my first step only to discover, to my joy, that he’s running to me even as the father ran to the prodigal. I start out to seek God only to discover that he’s already found me.
Take Away: If you’re looking for God today, guess what? He’s already found you.
1 Chronicles 26: The teams of security guards were from the family of Korah.
I’ve read this passage several times in various versions of the Bible, but since the sons of Korah were called “gatekeepers” it didn’t catch my attention. Now I see them being described as “security guards.” I guess that’s what gatekeepers are supposed to do: they provide security, seeing to it that all who enter are there for legitimate purposes. King David is such a multifaceted person. He’s a singer and songwriter and harp player, a skilled leader, and he’s a warrior who’s won countless battles. In this case, I see him drawing from his “warrior” skills in organizing the Levites. In spite of the peaceful conditions of the day David prepares for possible trouble. Now, it might be that the sons of Korah are basically ushers who tell people where the corral is for their soon to be sacrificed lamb but I’m guessing that David also wants them there “just in case.” I wonder to what extent, if any, this applies to the Church today. There have been some horror stories in the news, and, obviously, a church full of people is probably viewed as an easy target by some very bad people. I’m not seeing this as some kind of mandate, but there is, at least to some extent, a precedent here for a church to have at least some unofficial security.
Take Away: Leadership involves, in addition to having a vision and sense of direction, the ability to think through the practical concerns of the organization.
Modern day Levites
1 Chronicles 23: The Levites no longer have to carry the Tabernacle.
Centuries earlier when Moses organized their ancestors the descendants of Levi were given the task of moving the Tabernacle and all its furnishings from place to place. It was a big job and it was their job. As Israel fell into the idol worship of the Book of Judges the Levites were still considered holy men, although the application of that position was a pitiful distortion of “holy.” Now things are coming together. Israel’s in possession of the Promised Land. They have a King who wants nothing more than to serve and please God. Their days of wandering in both the physical and spiritual wilderness are past. And the days of moving the Tabernacle, including the precious Ark of the Covenant are also over. David, displaying his organizational genius, counts the Levites and finds that there are 38,000 men of age of service. He divides them into subgroups and begins handing out assignments in keeping with the spirit of their original assignment generations earlier. From now on they may not have to carry the Tabernacle from place to place, but they’ll be the overseers of the Tabernacle and, once it’s built, the Temple. The priests, descendants of Aaron, will handle the sacrifices and such. These sons of Levi will take care of everything else associated with the Temple. As I realize how much David loves the yet-to-be-built Temple and watch as he puts these Levites in charge of it I see what a compliment he’s paying them. I know it’s not the same but I’m reminded of the people who accept responsibilities associated with the Church. Thank God for church treasurers, Sunday Superintendents, teachers, volunteer janitors, and many others who love the Church and faithfully give of their time, talent, and treasure. These, I think, are the modern day Levites.
Take Away: Never take faithful servants for granted. They serve the Lord just a significantly as the preachers and singers.
Passing the vision along
1 Chronicles 22: I wanted in the worst way to build a sanctuary to honor my God. But God prevented me.
It was years earlier that David envisioned building a great House of Worship. The Lord blessed David for having that vision but he told David, “no.” David obediently yielded but the vision never faded. Now, late in his life David begins stockpiling materials for the great Temple project. There’s now a huge store of gold and silver and other precious building materials. David has also identified gifted stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and artisans. He’s still on the throne but he’s preparing for the day when his son Solomon ascends to leadership in Israel. The King has a father-son chat with his son, expressing his great disappointment in not being allowed to build the Temple, but also describing for Solomon all the preparations he’s made for its construction. Obviously, David wants Solomon to be infected with his vision. Worthwhile visions are, indeed, infectious. My enthusiasm is passed on to others who may actually accomplish more with it than I ever could. Also, David’s preparation efforts did a lot to assure that it would come to pass. David did more than dream of a Temple; he also did everything he could to prepare for its construction. Without that key ingredient all we have is good intentions. Visionary thinking includes not only thinking big, it includes real life preparation, and an intentional effort at vision casting.
Take Away: All the vision in the world is worthless without real life application.
There’s a time for simple faith
1 Chronicles 21: I want to know the number.
The story of David’s census of Israel has always been a bit puzzling to me. David is king and it’s certainly reasonable that a king have an idea of the population of his kingdom. After doing some reading about this, I’ve decided that it’s not the census that displeases God. Rather, it’s the purpose of it. Throughout his life David has been delivered by the Lord again and again. This census is designed to count the number of fighting men who are available to him. In other words, rather than trusting God to be his protector, David’s numbering his potential army. When I remember that this is late in David’s life I conclude that this might be an acceptable thing for someone less experienced with God but it’s not acceptable for David. Or put more simply, David’s old enough to know better. God expects us to mature in our relationship with him. For instance, in Matthew 16 Jesus reprimands his disciples for their lack of faith. He tells them that they’ve seen the 5000 and then the 4000 fed and it’s time to for them to get a handle on the fact that God supplies the needs of our lives, both physical and spiritual. As I read the story of David’s census I see that, as a person who’s seen his share of what God can do I’m expected to trust him more, and if I won’t do that, God will be displeased with me.
Take Away: The Lord expects us to grow in our relationship with him – to learn to trust him more – to be more and more secure in our walk with him.
Springtime always comes
1 Chronicles 20: That spring, the time when kings usually go off to war….
It’s a rather off handed statement, said as though it’s a truism that every reader will accept without a further thought. It’s springtime and the king is off to war. From here, we move forward to a few accounts of the victories won by David and his army, including more battles with big guys similar to Goliath. Apparently, the writer thinks that we’ll all agree that there’s a time for national leaders to lead their nations into war. David lives in an imperfect day in which some nations are belligerent against other nations. If he relaxes, enjoying the success the Lord has given him, the enemies of Israel will move to wipe them off the face of the map. Therefore, when the weather is right, David’s army gears up for war, knowing that if they don’t they’ll be erased by those who wish them dead. That’s a long time ago and the world has changed, right? You know that aside from the fact that armies no longer wait till spring to do battle that the world remains a dangerous place. I know I can’t take a passing phrase from 1 Chronicles to develop a philosophy of international relationships, but I do think that this is an example of a national leader doing what’s necessary to keep his nation safe and secure. As a people of God we hate war; especially the pain and suffering it brings to the innocent. It would be better if “springtime” never came, but we know it will and because of that we regrettably conclude that a primary responsibility of national leaders is to prepare for war and, while all that is possible to avoid war, to respond when necessary.
Take Away: We need to pray for our national leaders.