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Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Psalms: A Look into the Heart of David (Psalm 24:1)

"Of David. A psalm. The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it."

Journalists and newscasters are often accused of political bias in their reporting. Why should that surprise us? How can any writer or newscaster totally withhold his personality, opinions, and worldview from his reporting? Jesus says, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34).

David writes 73 of the 150 Psalms. Each Psalm reflects his view of God, nature, people (both past and present), and himself. 

Writing is therapeutic, informative and worshipful.

Writing is therapeutic, in that it stretches the writer to put words to his/her feelings, to think more reflectively, and to process and systematize his/her thoughts. Throughout the Psalms David communicates the heights of joy, praise, and thanksgiving and the lows of sadness, despair, brokenness, fear, etc.--all of which permits the reader to deal with and release to the Lord the issues of their own heart.

Reading David's Psalms encourages believers to reflect more deeply and honestly about their own journey with the Lord. I hope that you journal. If not, why not begin journaling today?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Psalm 24

  • What does this Psalm tell you about King David's view God and his relationship with God?
  • The idea of gates lifting up their heads pictures the city welcoming the return of a triumphant king. How does the use of LORD in these verses (7-10) show the significance of Christ's return to heaven?
Psalm 65
  • List at least five of the tangible benefits the psalmist ascribes to the LORD in this song of joy. As you write these down, list as well specific ways these benefits show up in your own life.
Psalm 68
  • David extols the greatness of God in this victory song, but he expresses as well the tender care of God for the fatherless, the widow, and even the lonely. How is that care expressed?
  • One section of this psalm prophecies of Christ's victory over death. Which verse makes this prophecy, and in which New Testament book is it recorded again?
Psalm 110
  • This short psalm contains two prophecies concerning Messiah. Which verses are these and where are they quoted?
Psalm 19
  • Theologians use the terms "general revelation" and "special revelation" to describe the ways God makes Himself known to humanity. This psalm extols one form of general revelation as well as special revelation. What verses list these two forms, and what are they?

Turning Truth to Prayer
As you pray, Psalm 19:14 ought to be set to memory and brought before the Lord daily, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Both Psalm 15 and 24 speak of ascending to the hill of the Lord; pray that God will make you fit to dwell in His presence on a practical, daily basis.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Doing the Right Thing the Right Way (1 Chronicles 15:13)

"It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way."

From the very beginning of the Bible we see that there's a right way and a wrong way to come to God or to handle the things of God. Abel came to God His way as he presented to God a blood offering. "Abel had faith. So he offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did" (Hebrews 11:4, NIrV). Abel "brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering" (Genesis 4:4). Cain refused to come to God His way; instead, he offered to God some of the things that he had grown. In order to come to God His way Cain would have had to humble himself before Abel in order to obtain a sacrificial lamb. In his pride Cain thought that he could come to God his way. Blood must be shed; the innocent, the good must die on account of the guilty. Abel understood that. Cain did not and it cost him dearly.

David's intentions were pure (bringing the ark to the prepared place in Jerusalem) as was Uzzah's (reaching out to steady the ark) intentions. Through lack of teaching Uzzah's reaching out to steady the oxen (a good and logical thing to do) cost him his life--he wasn't a Levite.

In our arrogance we think that God accepts all of our worship. He does not. Hosea rebukes Israel for going through the motions of worship (bringing sacrifices to God) while they mistreated others, etc. (Hosea 6:6). They were guilty of doing the right thing the wrong way. Solomon, in his wisdom writing declares this truth: "There is a way that seems right, but the end thereof is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12).

God is holy and must be treated as holy. People must be taught how to approach God and how to handle the things of God.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Samuel 6:12-23; 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:43
  • How does this movement of the Ark of the Covenant differ from the previous one in I Chron. 13? 
  • Important to review Deuteronomy 7:14ff. David obviously takes seriously the need to know the Book of the Law. Read Numbers 3:5-13 for role of the Levites. Read Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:3-4 for the rules regarding the offering. 
  • What does David do to signify the importance of this occasion in the life of Israel?
  • What does Michal's response tell you about her attitude toward the Lord and her view or understanding of a king's role? (Think also about her use of criticism as a controlling mechanism)
Psalm 15
• What question does David address and answer in this Psalm?

Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you where you err in touching the things of God.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Master of Breakthrough

"So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, "As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me" (2 Samuel 5:20; 1 Chronicles 14:11).

The name "Baal Perazim" captures symbolically what God does to the Philistines whose gods are powerless against the Living God. Like the raging waters of a broken dam the Philistines are literally washed away in the wake of God's intervention on Israel's behalf. Just as nothing remains standing in the path of a major dam break so the Philistines are unable to stand in the way of the God. He is the God of Breakthrough.

Baal Perazim literally means “the lord of breaking forth.” David’s troops broke through the Philistine offensive as raging waters might break through a dam. In answer to David's prayer for guidance and help against the Philistines the Lord answers him and says, "Go, I will hand them over to you." And hand them over He did!

What seemingly impossible barrier are you facing today? Finances, difficult marriage, rebellious child, illness, etc.? This story teaches us that first we must inquire of the Lord in order to discover His mind in the situation. Should He answer "Go, I will hand them over to you", then we can face whatever obstacle with the sure knowledge that God is the "Master of Breakthrough". He will break through our barriers/enemies just as He did for David and Israel against the Philistines.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Psalm 16
  • Describe how David views himself in his new role of serving God as Israel's king.
  • Describe David's focus or reliance as he begins ruling Israel.
2 Samuel 5:6-10;1 Chronicles 11:4-9
  • Why were the Jebusites so confident of their position in Jerusalem?
  • What does this tell you about Jerusalem?
  • What does David do to create or establish his leadership team?
2 Samuel 5:17-21; 1 Chronicles 14:8-12
  • Describe the main difference between Saul and David's reign (Review 1 Chron. 10:13-14)
2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19
  • What does this scene tell you about David's relationship with his mighty men?
2 Samuel 5:22-25; 14:13-17
  • What characterizes David's leadership?
  • What does this do for his followers?
  • What does this teach you about leadership?
2 Samuel 5:11-12; 1 Chronicles 14:1-2
  • What do neighboring rulers understand about David?
  • What does David recognize about the events occurring all around him?
1 Chronicles 13:1-14; 2 Samuel 6:1-11
  • What does this event teach Israel about God and about spiritual life under King Saul's rule?
Psalm 101
  • What does this Psalm tell you about David's walk with the Lord and the foundation of his reign?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to make you aware of how often you make decisions without seeking His guidance. Thank Him that He is the Master of Breakthroughs--that there are no barriers through which He cannot break.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Investing in Following Generations (Psalm 78:4, 6)

 "We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done . . . so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children."

In relay races the team who drops the baton automatically loses the race, therefore each 
successive runner must take and pass off the baton carefully.
David learned a hard lesson in the death of Uzzah. Under King Saul's example and reign an entire generation lacked a clear understanding of their origin, history and the fear of God. King Saul had neither grasped the baton nor handed it off and, as a result, an entire generation suffered from lack of Bible literacy.

David responds to this appalling lack of Bible literacy. He lists four reasons why every generation must teach the following generation their history and solid theology (Psalm 78:7-8):
  1. So that they would put their trust in the God
  2. So that they would not forget His deeds
  3. So that they would keep His commands.
  4. So that they would not be like their forefathers--a stubborn and rebellious generation whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.
Many church leaders (Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, etc.) are substituting good books written by popular Christian authors for the Bible. It shouldn't surprise us, therefore, that Barna Research Institute reveals that only 7% of Evangelical church pew members have a Biblical worldview. Just as people cannot maintain proper physical health by skipping meals entirely and living totally dependent upon vitamin supplements, so believers cannot maintain spiritual health without knowing the history of God's people and the theology embedded within the stories of the Bible.

Good books are just that--good books; they are supplements to the Word of God, not substitutes for the Word of God. Every generation must know the Word--which means I must be involved in Bible literacy (intentional growth in my own knowledge of the Word), in teaching the next generation the Word of God.

Questions for today's Chronological reading: 1 Chronicles 12:23-40

  • What has the consolidation of Israel done for them as a people?
Psalm 2
  • What ideology or philosophy brings diverse (and wicked) peoples and nations together?
  • How do kings often view themselves once they become king?
  • What warning does David give kings in this Psalm?
  • How does the gathering of wicked world leaders affect God and His kingdom?
Psalm 78
  • This Psalm describes the consequences of not teaching the following generation about their responsibility to God. What two periods or events in Israel's history does the Psalmist highlight and what are the consequences of their "forgetfulness"?
  • What has God used in David's life to prepare him for this leadership position?
  • What imagery does David use to describe people and their need for leadership?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the Lord for your Christian heritage. Offer yourself to God as a student of His Word and as a teacher of His Word to the next generation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Waiting on God (2 Samuel 2:1)

"In the course of time, David inquired of the LORD. "Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?" he asked.

David knew for certain that God had anointed him as a seventeen year-old boy to reign over Israel as their king. He sat on that knowledge for about thirteen years (or rather, he ran from Saul on that knowledge) before this day arrives. David learned much about God and about leadership (what not to do) as he watched Saul rule over Israel. David needed to go through thirteen years of running for his own good and personal growth. Not a single day was wasted. Although David had several opportunities to kill King Saul and take the kingdom for himself He refused to act on his own behalf. Since God made the promise it was God's responsibility to fulfill that promise.

Even after Saul's death David waits on the LORD's guidance. God allows David to move to Hebron and the house of Judah anoints him as their king. And he waits for another seven and a half years on God's timing for the next step. One thing David has learned about God: a promise made by God is a promise fulfilled by God.

Finally the tribes of Israel approach David and submit to his leadership and reign. David waits for twenty years for God to fulfill His promise. God doesn't need David's help. God helps those who don't help themselves. 

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Samuel 2:1-3:5; 1 Chronicles 3:1-4a
  • What characterizes the beginning of David's reign?
  • Who is Abner and why does he pick a fight with Joab?
  • What does Abner begin to understand about his position under Ish-Bosheth?
2 Samuel 3:6-4:3; 2 Samuel 4:5-5:5; 1 Chronicles 11:1-3
  • How does Joab respond to Abner's defection to King David?
  • How does David respond to Abner's death?
  • What do Recab and Baanah think the killing of Ish-Bosheth will do for them?
  • How does David respond to their news?
  • What does the death of Ish-Bosheth do for David?
  • How old was David when he becomes king over the consolidated kingdom of Israel?
  • What has David learned about God in the past years since Samuel anointed him future king of Israel?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the LORD that He is a faithful promise keeper. Confess areas in your life where you have moved ahead of God or acted in haste. Ask Him to help you to learn to wait on Him and His timing.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Fitting Epitaph ( 1 Chronicles 10:13-14a)

 "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord."
Those thirty-two words summarize Saul's life. What would be a fitting epitaph on Saul's tomb?
  • "Here lies a man who was unfaithful to the end"
  • "Here lies a small man in a large body"
  • "Without God in life, without God in death"
  • "Here lies a man who totally wasted his life"
When I consider Saul's life I think "What a waste!" Scripture records several events in the early days of his reign where Saul deliberately disobeys God. Many silent years pass by until David enters the picture. Instead of defeating the Philistines Saul spends the remaining years of his reign trying to kill David.

Did he ever stop and think, "What am I doing with my life?", "What will others say about me when I'm gone?", or "How will God evaluate my life?". Scripture gives no indication that Saul ever prepared for death or prepared to give an account of his life to God. Because Saul did not fear the Lord he did not prepare for death.

Living for that day demands deliberation and intentionality. God has entrusted each of us with gifts, talents, opportunities, resources, and time. How will we use them? Saul leaves a legacy and it isn't a pretty one. We too will leave a legacy. An epitaph will condense our lives into one brief statement. I wonder what mine will say?

Questions for today's Chronological reading:
1 Samuel 30:1-31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:1-14
  • What happens that causes David's men to turn against him?
  • What is David's first reaction to what has occurred?
  • What does this tell you about David?
  • God had given Saul the responsibility to destroy the Amalekites years earlier. How does his disobedience affect others?
  • What does David do that wins the hearts of the people of Judah?
  • How does Saul's life end?
  • How do the Philistines view Saul's death?
  • Why does the Amalekite take credit for killing Saul?
  • How does David honor King Saul even in death?
  • What does this tell you about David?
  • What does David's reaction teach the people about authority?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to help you live in light of eternity.