SOAP Journal – 29 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 23-26)

The Levites were numbered from thirty years old and upward, and their number by census of men was 38,000. … David divided them into divisions according to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

1 Chronicles 23:3,6

It is interesting to me that this numbering of the Levits follows so closely on the heels of the disaster associated with David’s numbering of Israel generally. There is a key difference between the two numberings. In the first instance, David numbered the people out of a sense of pride and wanting to see how many people he ruled over. In this second instance, David is numbering the Levites so he and their leadership can figure out how to redistribute their service when the temple is built and carrying the tabernacle around is no longer a necessity. There are those who serve in the temple, offering sacrifices and such. There are those who praise God and prophesy — which might have involved singing scripture as well as speaking of future events, but I am not sure — to music which modern, Western Christians often erroneously refer to this as the ‘worship’ team. There were the gatekeepers and all sorts of other jobs. Everyone had work to do. No one was left unemployed.

All of this reminds me that God is interested in things being orderly. I know that modern, Western Christians tend to go too far to either extreme with this one.

On the one side, there are well-meaning Christians who forbid any deviation from the schedule. Things will happen when they happen and there will be no straying from the schedule. Only appointed persons will speak or sing and everyone else will sit quietly by or sing along as appropriate. These people mean well — they are just trying to be orderly — but they do not leave room for God to change the agenda. They do not even provide Him with a means to do so.

On the other side, there are well-meaning Christians who believe that any sort of structure hinders the move of the Holy Spirit. These are the ones that have cacophonous meetings which beggar comprehension. They mean well. They just want to leave room for the Holy Spirit to have His way.

To make matter worse, there are fellowships wherein there is no clear division of labor between servants. People who have been called and stepped into leadership of a particular ministry find themselves, by choice or otherwise, laboring in or leading other ministries to which they received no call. It is not intentional. And that is the problem.

David and the leadership of the Levites were intentional. They got together and figured out how many servants there were and what needs they had to fill in the new organizational structure. They then cast lots for who would do what. It was a primitive and sometimes inaccurate method of trying to discern the will of God. But it worked. And the work of the temple was divided up into manageable portions that were divvied up among the various families of Levites.

I would do well to take to heart that even the work of the temple needed to be divided into manageable bits and parceled out. I should add to my reckoning a healthy dose of prayer and time spent seeking God’s input on how things are divvied up, but the breaking things into appropriate bits and making sure that those bits are taken care of is good insight for both the sacred and the mundane.

Father, thank You for being orderly. Were You not, this cosmos in which I live would likely be a very different and likely terrifying place. Please work in me to create an orderly person and life. Teach me, please, how to organize and to portion things out so they are manageable.

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SOAP Journal – 26 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 22)

David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the LORD shall be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all lands. [Therefore] now I will make preparation for it.” So David made ample preparations before his death.

1 Chronicles 22:5

When the kingdom was at peace, David got to looking around and noticed that he had a comfortable house to live in, but the Ark of the Covenant and the rest of the articles of worship were in tents. God had not asked for a temple to be built for Him, but David’s desire; David’s heart to do for God as much as or more than he (David) would do for himself (still David) was good. To that end, he makes preparation for the building of the temple and commissions his son, Solomon, to build it and the leadership of the kingdom of Israel to help Solomon do so. That is the chapter in summary. David prepares, then commissions.

As a father, myself, I need to look at whether I am preparing things for my children. The temple of God is people. One of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians tells me that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Am I modeling proper care of my body so that I am ready to do whatever God calls me to? I am not talking about becoming an amateur bodybuilder, but I should be doing what I am able to be fit enough to do the things God calls me to do.

More important than the physical is the question of whether or not I am training up my children in the discipline and the instruction of the LORD (Ephesians 6:4). That is one of God’s commissions on my life. It is my responsibility to make sure that my children have a firm foundation of unconditional love and modeled faith. They need to grow secure in my love for them so they can be likewise secure in their Heavenly Father’s love for them. They need to see faith lived out so that they are not frustrated by the inevitable failures, but know that confession and repentance are the first steps to getting back to walking with God. And that same standard must be applied with their earthly father (me) as well.

Am I supplying my children with the materials they need to be built into temples of the Holy Spirit? If so, let me continue to lay up stores that the temple they build may be glorious. If not, let me begin this moment to lay up stores by loving them without condition and walking my faith before them openly; by disciplining them as God has instructed me and by teaching them that they are the only ones who will ultimately be accountable for the things they do and do not.

Father, thank You for the commission of fatherhood. It is a weighty thing to be tasked with providing my children the tools and materials they need to be built into temples of the Holy Spirit. Please grow me into a man who is equal to the commission, so that my children might be built into temples for Your Spirit and that those temples might be glorious in Your eyes.

SOAP Journal – 25 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 21)

David said to Gad, “I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are very great. But do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

1 Chronicles 21:13

When I came across this account in Samuel, I was focused on David’s insistence that he not sacrifice something to the LORD that did not cost him anything. I also got a little caught in the variance in price paid between the two accounts, concluding that one price was for the whole place while the other was for specific parts of the place. This morning, I am caught by a verse that has troubled me for some time.

The account is familiar to me. David decides to number the people. Numbering the people was mandated at certain times and forbidden the rest of the time under The Law. When David realizes his wrong, he repents and asks God to forgive him. God sends Gad, the seer, to give David a choice between disciplinary actions and David chooses to fall into the hands of the LORD. David’s prayer request shifts to a plea for mercy on the people as he sees the devastation wrought by the pestilence and the people had done nothing wrong as far as David knew. The land and sacrifice is purchased and the sacrifice made and the pestilence ends.

I was mulling over the disciplinary actions that David was presented with and wondered why he told Gad to let him (David) fall into the hand of God and not man. It seemed like a cop-out, like David was saying that he could not choose between those things. The more I have thought about it, the more I see that David was giving an answer.

Famine can be seen as a punishment from God, but there are side effects to it. Famine sends people looking for food wherever they can find it. This opens the people up to exploitation. Some people would choose to move from the country experiencing the famine to a country that was not, which is exactly how the book of Ruth opens. Famine could have far-ranging consequences that were not directly the hand of the LORD.

Defeat in battle often means the loss of lives. Add to that the statement that David’s foes would be pursuing him and the whole situation looks like it would become three months of a kingdom ungoverned while the king and the army were constantly on the run. This would leave portions of the kingdom at the whim of enemy monarchs and raiding bands. Again, far-ranging human consequences.

Pestilence, on the other hand, operates differently. People fall ill. Some may die. Others may recover. Whatever the outcome, the human element is effectively removed from the equation. Even today, most countries are loathe to send their people into places with fatal diseases running rampant. Despite our best precautions, we know that diseases sometimes get through our defenses and infect those who were only trying to help. This is the only option on the list that could be understood to be exclusively the hand of the LORD. Moreover, it potentially causes the least suffering. Starvation is slow and painful. Foreign powers defeating the army and doing what ancient armies often did when victorious — raping and pillaging — seems as though it would have causes tremendous suffering. But disease can be a very quick thing and relatively free from suffering.

It appears that David, far from copping out, was actually giving a specific response. More, he revealed in his response a knowledge of God’s character — His mercies are very great. David chose the one punishment that would be exclusively the hand of the LORD.

Father, please keep me from the hands of men. Your mercy is reliable. The mercy of men is fickle, at best.

SOAP Journal – 20 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 20)

These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.

1 Chronicles 20:8

The first three verses of this chapter recount the defeat of the Ammonites. After King Hanun — the king of Ammon  — humiliated emissaries from King David, hired mercenaries to fight against Israel for him, and saw those mercenaries soundly defeated, Joab turned his attention to Ammon. The defeat was thorough and David and his people inflicted serious harm.

The last five verses — verses four through eight — are where I want to focus this morning. Those five verses recount the defeat of three different giants defeated by three different men and reminds the reader of a fourth giant — Goliath — who had been defeated by a young David. Each of the men mentioned is just that: a man. There are no supermen on the list, no men of impressive physique (as far as we know). All that we are given is a list of names of men — one of whom is David’s nephew — of men who killed giants.

The account of David killing Goliath is often used as a basis for saying that the little guy can beat the big guy. It is the quintessential underdog story. And we love a good underdog story. But each of the men listed in these verses was just as much an underdog in his own fight with a giant.

The takeaway for me is this: I do not need to be a giant in the faith to kill the giants that stand against me. I can face the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to progressing in my walk with God and emerge victorious. I, too, can fell giants if God bids me.

I need to examine myself and see what giants are in my life. I can think of a couple without much effort. The follow-on question I must ask is whether God has told me to face that giant down. If He has, then I need to step up and kill a giant. Because what God bids me do He gives me ability to do.

Thank You, Father, that You are a God Who kills giants and does so by the hands of Your children. Please help me see the giants in my life clearly and hear clearly when You bid me face them and be victorious.

SOAP Journal – 18 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 19)

Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight.

1 Chronicles 19:13

This chapter is an account of an event I considered when it happened in the book of Samuel, but it bears consideration a second time.

David had received kindness from Nahash, king of the Ammonites. Then Nahash died and David thought that he would send comforters to Nahash’s son, Hanun. When the comforters arrived, Hanun’s advisers opined that the comforters were really spies, so Hanun treated them accordingly. The trouble is that David had been in earnest when he sent the comforters.

If Hanun had left the offense there, or even apologized and explained what had happened, then things might have gone very differently. But Hanun did not explain or apologize. He decided that he should hire mercenaries and stage a preemptive strike against David.

David saw this and sent the army to deal with it. Joab and his brother commanded the army and were victorious. In fact, Joab told his brother that they would split their forces and come to one another’s aid if necessary and the LORD would do what was right in His sight. The mercenaries called out more soldiers and David, in response, brought out the rest of the army himself. The victory was made more complete and the mercenaries were made to pay tribute to the kingdom of Israel.

And I must ask how this applies to me.

There are three main lessons.

The first lesson is taught by David. People will sometimes misunderstand a kindness shown them. Perhaps it is because of bad experiences or because bad company is offering shoddy counsel. Whatever the reason, I may have the right motives for my actions and still not have my actions be understood or accepted as intended.

The second lesson is taught by Hanun. Hanun listened to bad counsel which, in and of itself, is lesson enough. I should make sure that I surround myself with good counselors. But Hanun compounded error. Instead of telling David that a mistake had been made, he hires mercenaries. Instead of trying to make peace with a neighbor, as his father had done, Hanun chose belligerence. Let me not compound my errors, but instead seek to be a peacemaker.

The third lesson is taught by Joab. Joab saw that he was outnumbered and likely to have trouble, so he devised the best strategy he could and trusted God for the outcome. This is not the best strategy possible. The best strategy is when the king sought God’s counsel before even setting foot on the battlefield and executed the plan that God gave him. But Joab has the right heart. He decides to be courageous for the sake of God’s people and leave the outcome in God’s hands. I, too, need to leave outcomes in God’s hands. I can do my best and be as thorough as I know how to be, but the results are in God’s control and may involve people misunderstanding what I am trying to do.

Know that I may be misunderstood. Try to make peace with my neighbors. And leave the outcomes in God’s hands.

Father, thank You for these reminders. It is not a new idea that I may be misunderstood or that the outcomes are in Your control, but these are things of which I need to be reminded. Please keep me mindful that I may be misunderstood and that the outcome may not be what I would prefer it be. In spite of these, please make me a peacemaker, that I might be called a son of God.

SOAP Journal – 13 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 18)

And the LORD helped David wherever he went.

1 Chronicles 18:6b

Chapter eighteen is a string of unbroken victories. Everywhere David turns, he is victorious over his adversaries. Because the LORD helped David wherever he went.

1 Chronicles sets this up as a step in a progression. David started in a place where he tried doing things his own way — he tried to bring the Ark into Jerusalem in the most expedient way and multiplied wives — then reached a place where he began to seek God’s counsel and obey what he found. The more he obeyed, the more victorious he was. When he obeyed, he was able to bring the Ark into Jerusalem. When he obeyed, his enemies were defeated because the LORD helped David wherever he went.

The same is true for me today.

If I try to walk with God in my own way; worshiping as I think I ought and obeying the commands that are convenient, I will find myself unsuccessful. My efforts to please God and make Him more a part of my life will fail, not because God is unwilling to draw close to me but because I am unwilling to come to Him on His terms. It may seem unfair that I must approach God on His terms. It is not about fairness. It is about the Holy One bidding me to be holy as He is holy. It is about Him by Whom and for Whom I was made calling me to Himself and telling me the way that leads to His presence.

If, on the other hand, I walk with God on His terms, I will find myself victorious in my battles. David fought physical battles against human foes. I do not struggle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12). I wrestle with my own sinful desires and world systems like television and movies and internet that seem bent on dragging me into temptation’s path and an adversary that accuses me at all times. I can try to fight these foes on my own terms and I will lose. Or I can obey God and see Him bring victory. The deciding factor is that the LORD helped David wherever he went. But the LORD did not help David everywhere he went until David had drawn near to God on God’s terms.

Father, please train me to draw near to You on Your terms so I might see You work in my life at every turn.

SOAP Journal – 12 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 17)

11 When your days are fulfilled that you must go [to be] with your fathers, that I will set up [one of] your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. 14 But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.

1 Chronicles 17:11-14

In chapter seventeen, David got to thinking that he (David) had a permanent dwelling while God, represented by the Ark, did not. This troubled David, as he thought that God should have it better than the king. So David decided that he was going to build a house for God. The prophet Nathan thought that this was a great idea and encouraged David. But God had something else in mind. God points out to Nathan — whom God tells to relay the message to David — that He (God) never asked anyone to build Him a house. During this chat, God got to speaking in prophecies that had both an immediate and a long-term fulfillment; an imperfect fulfillment in the person of Solomon and a perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ. David heard the message and praised God.

God has spoken prophecies over the life of believers, too. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. He has promised that He will complete the good work that He has begun in us. My response to these promises ought to be praise. As David was overwhelmed by the magnitude and magnanimity of God’s promise, so, too, ought I to be with regard to the promises that God has made to me. For that which God has promised, He will and has fulfilled.

Father, thank You for Your goodness toward me. Thank You for the promises You have made. I could never merit such goodness and generosity if I had all eternity to try. Yet You pour out such blessing as cannot be contained. Please give me a heart that is moved to praise at such generosity and goodness toward me and mine. Please give me a heart that is like Yours.