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April 2019

Solomon squanders the favor of God

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From our daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 3-5
April 13, 2019

 

Solomon is an interesting figure, and in many ways he is even more of a precursor to Christ than David.

Solomon is the favored son, the one that God promises will sit on David’s throne in a prophecy ultimately fulfilled by Jesus. Even from the beginning of his life, we read that Solomon was beloved by God. He is the son on whom God dotes, blesses with everything that he could possibly need, and we see that Solomon in turn, loved the Lord.

It is Solomon, not David, who speaks to the Lord in a dream. In chapter 4, after Solomon has offered sacrifices at the tabernacle in Gilboah, the Lord appears and asks Solomon what he can give him. Solomon’s response is for wisdom to rule God’s people, and in response, not only does God bless him abundantly with wisdom, but he also blesses him with peace, prosperity, wealth, wives, basically everything he could possibly want.

All of this favor because God had promised David that he would do so. We see an extension of the promises God made to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, fulfilling the idea of Israel as a great nation, along with his promise to David of setting his son on the throne. However, it’s important to note that while God blesses Solomon greatly, he ultimately falls away due to worldly influences from his many wives.

As we’ll see, Solomon is a cautionary tale for us, who have been so richly blessed by God. How will we react to those blessings? Will they draw us closer to God – as they did to Solomon in his early years? Or will they prove to be a distraction in and of themselves, becoming so central to our lives that they pull our attention away from serving the God who blessed us.

Next reading: 1 Kings 6-9

Solomon takes the throne as God’s chosen son

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From our daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 1-2
April 12, 2019

 

Today we’re starting into 1 Kings, reading the first two chapters, which detail David’s transfer of his kingship to his son Solomon. This is the first time that Israel has had a kingly succession, so as you would expect, it did not go smoothly. But we see some early indications of the wisdom of Solomon, who for a time at least, would lead Israel in its greatest period of prosperity.

Solomon was probably in his late teens when the story takes place, but he has an older brother by a different mother, named Adonijah, who is described in the first two verses as a beautiful but spoiled man, much like his half brother Absalom. Adonijah was the oldest of David’s surviving sons, and likely expected that he should be the ruler.

Solomon crowned as God’s choice for king

However, God had already picked a ruler. Back in Deuteronomy 17:15, when the law predicted the time when the nation would choose a king, the law clearly states that God would choose that king, not man. And when God promised David that he would raise up a son to sit on his throne, we learn in 1 Chronicles 22:9 that He had specified Solomon for that role.

We’re not told, but since David had sworn this to Solomon’s mother Bathsheba, it’s unlikely that this decision was any big secret, and so Adonijah goes on a PR campaign with key members of David’s inner circle in an attempt to sway them and gain their support – which he does.

Notable among them is Joab, the leader of David’s army, who has shown a past history of countermanding the king’s orders when it suited him or when he believed it to be in the kingdom’s best interest. It’s likely he saw an older, charismatic Adonijah as a better fit for kingship.

However, thanks to a warning from the prophet Nathan, David quickly installs Solomon on the throne, and in parting makes some recommendations on what Solomon should do after David dies. The scene is almost reminiscent of a scene from The Godfather, with the aging head of the family advising on cleaning up “family business.”

In this case, that included killing Joab for his multiple murders — which David had so far failed to punish — and also killing Shimei, the relative of Saul who had cursed David during Absalom’s rebellion.

Solomon takes care of family business

This seems almost petty of David, but in the context of establishing Solomon’s kingdom, David seems to be taking the prudent actions. In fact when he addresses Solomon about Shimei, he says “Do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You know what you ought to do to him.” Shimei had rebelled before, and with David gone, he might again cause trouble for the new king. Here Solomon combines wisdom with mercy, allowing Shimei to live provided he stays within the city of Jerusalem.

You could argue that David took an easy way out in leaving Joab’s punishment to Solomon, but here we see David the politician at work. While Joab had at times disobeyed, he had been mostly loyal and had at least been manageable. But without David in place, Joab had already shown his willingness to make his own decisions apart from God’s will on how the kingdom should be run, and David obviously knew that Solomon could not expect to control him. He had essentially outlived his usefulness, and David decided that it was time for him to pay for the murders of – as Solomon puts it – two men more righteous and better than himself.

Solomon also extends mercy to his brother Adonijah, but as in the case of Shimei, Adonijah proved to be too much of a risk. Solomon’s older brother asks for David’s concubine as a wife, which would have given him an even stronger claim to kingship. Solomon rightly saw this as an attempt to start yet another rebellion, and he had his brother put to death.

It’s a bloody beginning to a kingdom, but it begins a stretch of peace and prosperity unmatched in Israel’s history – culminating with the construction of the Temple of the Lord, and advancing us farther along the path to the anointing of God’s true chosen king, Jesus the Christ.

Next reading: 1 Kings 3-5

How can Christians lead worthy lives?

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In Colossians 1:9-10, we read that Paul’s prayer for the Colossians – and for all Christians – is to live a life that is worthy of the Lord.

That seems odd to us in some ways, because we understand that we can’t earn our salvation, that we are saved by the grace of God and not through our own goodness or works.

We can never be good enough to deserve anything that God has done for us. So how can we be worthy?

“Worthiness” and “deserving” are not the same

I think the problem is that we associate worthiness with deserving, and that’s not really how we normally use those ideas. As with a lot of terminology, we understand the concepts in real life, but we don’t always apply those ideas when we read the Bible.

For example…

… we might observe a teenager who’s been given a Ferrari by his parents for his birthday, and he proceeds to drive it recklessly, bang into mailboxes, trash the interior with wrappers and dirt, ignore all the maintenance, and get into accident after accident — all the while boasting to anyone who will listen how great his car is and by extension, how great HE is, and how horrible his parents are for not getting him the special rims and accessories that he wanted. We would think, “Why is that car wasted on someone like that, who doesn’t appreciate what he’s been given?”

We would probably never say that any teenager has EARNED a Ferrari, but we might say that he shows gratitude in the way that he treats the vehicle, and in the way he responds to the parents who gave it to him. How I treat the gift itself, or how the gift changes my attitude or actions, reflects my attitude about the giver!

How does God’s gift change us?

That’s what Paul is saying to Christians. You’ve been given an immeasurable gift of grace in your salvation.

Paul describes in chapter 1 of Colossians who Jesus is, how exalted he is above all things — he is the image of God. He is the creator of all things. And he is the head of the body, which is the church. And yet that same Jesus has reconciled us to his body by his death, to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before him!

How do we live in view of that gift? Do we see it as sacred? Does it change the way we make decisions in our lives? The priorities we set? The way we spend our time and energy? Do we follow Jesus begrudgingly, always looking for shortcuts, excuses not to do things we know are pleasing to God, or looking for the absolute minimal level of commitment so that we can continue with the things we’d rather be doing with our lives?

A worthy life gives everything to God

Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20: “The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” That describes a life where we are totally committed to serving God above ourselves. Anything less is unworthy of the grace God has shown to us.

May God bless us all and give us the faith and resolve to live with that kind of gratitude in our lives and our hearts, so that we can serve God the way God deserves to be served.

Listen to the full lesson on YouTube here.

David’s final speech is praise to the Lord

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From our daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 21-24
April 11, 2019

 

We read here about the later years of David’s realm, and in these last three chapters we read about the good and the bad for David. Chapter 22 contains David’s song of deliverance, which is also written in Psalm 18, and contains so many familiar verses and images that David uses to express his love for God, and God’s continued protection of David throughout his life.

He opens the passage saying “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge. David recounts his near-death experiences on the battlefield, maybe referring to the story of the previous chapter, where we read about David growing tired during a battle with the Philistines and prompting his army to request that he no longer go out to battle. It says something about the army’s leader when his weakness in battle is met with the request: “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.” Clearly David had become much more than simply a king or a leader to his armies. And in chapter 22, David emphasizes that it has been God who has given him the victory over all the years of his life.

His last words are included in chapter 23, “The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel.” And David here reveals the key to his reign:

“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth. 2 Samuel 23:2-4

David’s vanity leads to sin

But we also see the David that does not always make good decisions, and in chapter 24, David gives in to his vanity and orders a census of the people, as verse 2 says “so that I may know the number of the people.” When Exodus 30 talks about a census, it instructs that every Israelite pay a half sheckel as a ransom for his life, that there be no plague among them when you number them.” This money went toward the service of the tabernacle, and was intended to direct the people’s mind toward atonement.

But even in this mistake, we see that David is convicted of his sin, and before he is even confronted with the wrong, he confesses his sin to God. The prophet Gad comes to him with a choice of punishments, and David chooses to suffer pestilence for three days, possibly thinking this was the least severe of the three options he is given. But the angel of the Lord strikes down 70,000 Israelites, before David is sent to build an altar for the Lord and appease his anger not only against David, but against the nation of Israel itself according to v. 1 of the chapter.

And when David arrives to the place where he is to build the altar, the owner of the threshing floor offers to give it to David. David’s response is “I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”

David’s penitence and faith win out

As a man after God’s heart, David understood the true cost of atonement, the nature of sacrifice, and continually had a strong desire to offer gifts pleasing to God, not to himself, and not to the people. David always sought God’s heart, and in the times where he sinned and strayed – and he did with remarkable severity at times – he always repented and came back to God.

Thanks for joining us – we’ll pick up tomorrow by starting in the first to chapters of 1 Kings.

Next reading: 1 Kings 1-2

A glimpse of the Messiah in David’s plight

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From our daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 13-18
April 9, 2019

Thanks for joining us,. As we continue reading through the Bible. We’re currently reading in 2 Samuel 13-18 as we catch up from the weekend.

The story of Absalom is presented in this section, and we see in these six chapters a drama that takes on an even deeper meaning as we continue studying the Bible and recognizing the threads that connect the Old testament stories to the events of the New Testament. In this case, we read a story that began some time before when David sinned in his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah. Nathan warned him at that time that the sword would not depart from David’s house for his deeds, even though he was forgiven by God.

As a result, the story of Absalom begins when David’s oldest son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar, the sister of Absalom. David refuses to punish his son, and after a year of planning Absalom arranges the murder of his brother. He spends the next two years estranged from his father for avenging a crime that David would not avenge, and so you can fully understand the resentment that must have fueled Absalom’s decision to rebel and attempt to overthrow his father.

Absalom revolts against his father David

So when Absalom puts his scheme in motion, David refuses to fight, instead, packing up his household and fleeing Jerusalem. He sends the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem along with the priests, refusing to bring it with him, as he clearly sees this as his punishment, and he understands that his actions have forced him to leave the city of God, and it’s only through God’s grace that he will be allowed to return.

He tells Zadok the priest in chapter 15:

 “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.” – 2 Samuel 15:24-27

And then in verse 30, we read a verse that would be easy to dismiss as simply narrative.

David’s flight foreshadows the suffering of Christ

But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went. 2 Samuel 15:30

Here is a striking image of the man “after God’s own heart” being forced out of the city by God’s people, all of whom had loved him up until just now, who had sung his praises, but at the word of a false accuser and a usurper, Israel turned its back on its king and abandoned him to apparent death.

The parallel is striking when we think of the sorrow that Jesus underwent on that same mountain on the night when Jerusalem once again rejected its king. While David suffered for his own sins, Jesus took on himself the sins of all the world, suffering the humiliation of rejection, and ultimately actual death, so that we could be free.

But just as David ultimately returned to the city in triumph, Jesus would return as well, rising from the dead and appearing to his disciples on the first day of the week, bringing hope of God’s eternal kingdom being established shortly thereafter.

Next reading: 2 Samuel 19-21

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