God’s on my side
2 Chronicles 13: Can’t you see the obvious? God is on our side; he’s our leader.
Abijah, king of Judah is making a speech to the vast army of Jeroboam, king of Israel. From his hillside pulpit he reminds them that their nation has rejected God Jehovah. They’ve kicked out his priests and named priests for their man made idols. As have national leaders for thousands of years, Abijah claims that God’s on his side and, because of that, resistance is futile. Meanwhile, Jeroboam has his army pretending to politely listen. Actually, he has a large contingent sneaking around to the back of Abijah’s forces. When they’re in place, the army of Judah will be crushed. As the trap is sprung Abijah finds himself in a position to put his “God’s on our side” rhetoric to the test. The scripture says “they prayed desperately to God.” Know what? He’s right! The smaller army of Judah, in spite of their tactical disadvantage, routes the army of Jeroboam. This humiliating defeat spells the end of Jeroboam’s reign. It also provides us yet another example of what God can do when we trust in him. Of course, if I want God to be on my side I need to pay attention to one little detail: I’ve got to be on his side.
Take Away: The Lord is faithful to his people.
Visiting the graveyard, looking at tombstones
2 Chronicles 12: God was not important to him.
Here’s a story of the man who, because of pure stubbornness, split Israel into two Kingdoms. Under his grandfather, David (a man after God’s own heart), Israel became a united and successful nation. Under his father, Solomon (a man who asked God for wisdom), great things were accomplished and prosperity came to the land. Under Rehoboam (a man who thinks God is unimportant) there is civil war, invasion from Egypt, and spiritual decline. As his obituary is written this phrase stands out: “God was not important to him.” Such a charge states volumes. In fact, when the final story of any life is told, how a person responded to God is the most important fact about them. It remains true today. How I respond to God matters and honestly, God won’t be ignored. In every life, God has the last word.
Take Away: What will be the Lord’s last word on my life?
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.
Murder most foul
2 Samuel 11: War kills — sometimes one, sometimes another.
David’s failure in 2 Samuel 11 is stunning. There are no excuses, no contributing circumstances that in any way lessen his failure. When Saul takes it upon himself to play the role of priest rather than wait on Samuel it’s a horrible failure, but it’s no greater than the one I read about here. David, King of Israel sees a woman taking a bath and wants her. Abusing his authority as king he sends for her and then has sexual relations with her. When she later discovers that she’s pregnant, he sends for her husband in hopes of covering up his sin. The only things we know about Uriah are what we find in this story but it’s clear that he’s an honorable man and a loyal soldier. Failing in his plan, David sends a note to his general, Joab (a note carried by Uriah, himself) that’s actually a death sentence. When David receives word of Uriah’s death, he shrugs it off with “war kills.” In this case it isn’t war that kills. It’s David. In the words of Agatha Christie, this is “murder most foul.” David’s a great man, a real hero, and a key figure in God’s plan for the world. Still, the writers of Scripture do not avoid the issue here. They tell us the whole ugly story. Still, what happens, as unsavory as it is, isn’t beyond the grace of God. I’m glad the story doesn’t end here.
Take Away: The Lord can’t deal with our sin until we admit we have sinned and repent of it.
Marching to victory
2 Samuel 8: God gave victory to David wherever he marched.
David is now firmly established as king of Israel. He undertakes the great mission of retaking territory that has been lost and subduing or destroying their enemies. War isn’t pretty and the best I can do here is to simply read the historical account and see it as descriptive of what David is able to do by the power of the Lord. These events are distant from me in time and culture. For David, this is about making Israel safe, secure, and firmly established. The lesson here is not that God will help me inflict pain and death on my enemies, but instead, that God will help me live in victory over those things that would destroy me.
Take Away: By the Lord’s help I can defeat all that would defeat me.
The Peace Maker
Isaiah 2: No more will nation fight nation; they won’t play war anymore.
We think that our day, with all its international stress points, is somehow unique but we know it really isn’t. It isn’t war that’s unique to human experience, its peace. Human history, including that which is included in the Bible, is filled with war and every generation seems to take its turn at it. Israel’s possession of the Promised Land started with a war and it’s still at war today. Isaiah’s promise of peace sounds as fantastic today as it did then. However, his promise isn’t that of a politician who sincerely promises a “war to end all wars” but all too soon sees an even more devastating conflict break out. Isaiah’s promise isn’t man-centered, but is, instead, God-centered. The secret to peace on Earth isn’t “one more war” or “bigger weapons” or even the leadership of some gifted peace-maker. That’s because the real battle field isn’t in the Middle East or any other geographical location. Rather, it’s the human heart. James put it this way, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1). Until the conflict of the human heart is resolved there isn’t a chance “in the world” of peace between nations. Our hope then is Christ. It’s the peaceful rule of the Messiah that Isaiah looked to. Today, I’m reminded that the dominion of the one who “on earth brings peace to men” begins, not out on the battle field, but in my heart.
Take Away: The only hope of peace in the world is Christ.
Psalm 7: I’m feeling so fit, so safe: made right, kept right.
Don’t you just love those “safe days”? What a blessing to look inward and see a heart made right and kept right. How pleasant it is to think serene thoughts, imagining soft, easy-going days in which I relax in the assurance of God’s pleasure with my life. It’s too bad that that’s not the message of this Psalm at all. David is under attack and he’s running for his life. He’s been accused of all kinds of failure, including spiritual failure. If his enemies get their hands on him he’s finished. This isn’t a day at the beach. This is war. And it’s in the middle of this war that David looks to God for help and vindication. As some of his life’s most difficult days rage all around him, he looks upward and finds hope. He looks inward and finds peace. While I really do love soft “safe days” I know that the real test of God’s work in my life is out on the battle field. If I can sense his pleasure with me and find inner peace there, well, I can find it anywhere.
Take Away: Life isn’t always easy but the Lord is with us and in us even on hard days.