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.

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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.

SOAP Journal – 11 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 15-16)

The sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles thereon, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.

1 Chronicles 15:15

In chapters fifteen and sixteen, David made a successful second attempt to bring the Ark into Jerusalem. This go around, David did things the way God instructed they be done. The priests and Levites were gathered and consecrated and carried the Ark in the way that God had prescribed. There were no issues save one: David’s first wife, Michal, hated David’s exuberance and his disdain for appearances while he praised God as the Ark was brought into the city. Once the Ark was in Jerusalem, David assigned Levites to sing praises to God and an exemplar psalm is provided.

All of this drives home a simple message: Approach God in the way that He has prescribed. There are many people who claim that all ways lead to God. While they may, only one Way leads to the entrance gates of Heaven — Jesus Christ — all others lead to the Judgment Seat. The choice is mine.

There is a corollary to that message, though. The result of coming to God in the Way He has prescribed is joy. There was rejoicing over the Ark coming to Jerusalem. There was rejoicing over its presence in the city. There was rejoicing and celebration in general. The result of doing what God bids me do in the way He bids me do it is joy.

These chapters are also a proper progression from the chapter that preceded, wherein I am reminded to obey the will of God that I already know and seek God for the specifics. David had missed the will of God that he already knew when he tried to bring the Ark in the wrong way and had multiplied wives for himself — both wrong, as far as God is concerned. But David sought God for specifics when threatened. Perhaps it was in that time of addressing threats that David remembered that God had already supplied general guidance that should be obeyed.

Father, thank You for the regular reminders in Your Word that joy is the result of doing what You bid me do in the way You bid me do it. Please cement this truth in me that I might gladly do what You bid me do in the way You bid me do it.

SOAP Journal – 08 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 14:8-17)

David inquired of God, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? And will You give them into my hand?” Then the LORD said to him, “Go up, for I will give them into your hand.”

1 Chronicles 14:10

David hears that the Philistines are coming for him and he asks God if he (David) should go fight. God tells David to get fight the Philistines. David does so and there is victory. The Philistines decide, again, to attack the Israelites and David asks God whether or not to get into that fight. God tells David to go around behind the Philistines and wait for a signal that tells him (David) that it is time to fight. David does as God tells him and there is victory. What is more, these decisive victories make David famous in the surrounding nations.

These verses are a reminder that my first response to stressful situations and specific concerns ought to be to consult God on the matter. The Bible speaks to a great many things, but there are situations in life where I want more specific guidance.

For example, The Bible does not have a list of names of who should and should not marry and whom they ought to marry if they ought to marry. This is not a stressful situation, but a specific concern. The Bible has guidance about what sort of man or woman a believer ought to be looking for as a potential spouse. The Bible even has things to say on the subject of whether or not a person should marry — Paul gives the opinion that it is better to be single if that is something that you are able to do as it allows you to serve God more freely, but marriage is honorable and he who finds a wife finds a good thing in the eyes of the LORD. The general may be applied to me without concern, but it did not tell me whether or not my wife and I would be well together as a married couple. We had to seek God for specifics on that one.

Another example — a stressful situation — happened a while ago. I had been working in one place for a few years and there were some doubts about the future of the company. The market was getting rough and there had been several rounds of layoffs already. I was wondering if I should stay or should I look for other employment. It was stressful for me, because I enjoyed my coworkers and the situation was not bad, just very uncertain. The Bible has some general guidance for me in the form of telling me that I, as a believer, need to be working to provide for my household. The Bible is then silent on what shape that work takes or where I ought to be doing it. So I prayed and moved and trusted that God would guide me.

To be able to do what God wants in the way that God wants and achieve the outcome that God wants, I need to speak with Him about all of the situations not covered by the general guidance of The Bible.

Father, please remind me to come back to You regularly for all the specifics that concern me. They are not all stressful, but they do concern me and those I love. When I come, please speak clearly so I have no confusion about Your will in the matter.

SOAP Journal – 05 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 14:1-7)

Then David took more wives at Jerusalem, and David became the father of more sons and daughters.

1 Chronicles 14:3

I had thought to consider chapter fourteen as a whole, but there are really two separate thoughts in this chapter. The first thought is in verses one through seven. The second is the remainder of the chapter.

It would be a simple thing for me to read over the first seven verses of the chapter and think that the whole thing is about God establishing David as king and exalting that kingdom (v. 2). But that would be to miss verse three entirely. Verse three tells me that David took more wives and had more children.

Deuteronomy 17:17 says that the king shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. I notice that it is when the king multiplies wives and greatly increases silver and gold that his heart turns away. It is the excess that is inherently dangerous.

David knew this. He wrote in Psalm 19:7-8 that The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; / The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. / The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; / The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. David was familiar with God’s Law and probably knew that he was not supposed to have multiple wives.

Since polygamy is not legal in the United States and since the thought of it is not attractive, that is not the application for me this morning. My application lies elsewhere.  My application: Obey the command I know.

David knew not to multiply wives, but he did anyway. There are things that God has told me TO DO and things He has told me NOT TO DO. Before I start tying myself up in knots about particulars, let me do the things and cease from doing the things that God has given instruction about. Has God told me to trust in Him and not lean on my own understanding (Hint: He has)? Then let me trust Him and not seek to understand every detail of the thing He is doing. Has God told me to be anxious for nothing? Then let me cease from worry. I have more than enough instruction in both the DO THIS and DO NOT DO THIS category to keep me occupied for quite a while.

There are plenty of things that God did not address specifically in The Bible, but I will invest my time well if I use it to do the things I know to do and ask God about everything else.

Father, thank You for the reminder that David, though a man after Your heart, was not perfect. Thank You for the reminder to do the things I know to do and cease from the things I know not to do. Please give me the eyes to see both for what they are, the strength to begin rightly, and the endurance to see obedience through until it becomes my regular pattern of behavior.

SOAP Journal – 04 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 13)

Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.

1 Chronicles 13:4

Once the kingdom of Israel was unified under David’s rule, David thought it would be a good idea to bring the Ark to Jerusalem. He checked with the nation’s leadership and they all agreed that it was a great idea. They got a cart and put the Ark on it and were rolling along having a big celebration when something upset the cart. A man named Uzza saw the Ark tipping and put his hand on it to steady it. And God struck the man dead. David rolls the cart with the Ark on it aside onto a man’s property and leaves it there for a few months.

So why was Uzza struck dead?

God had already made provision for how the Ark was supposed to be transported. There were poles that went through rings on the side of the Ark and the poles were to be carried on the shoulders of appointed priests. The cart was not in God’s description.

God had made it abundantly clear that no one was supposed to touch the Ark once it had been made and sanctified. None of the priests touched it. No one was supposed to touch it. While Uzza’s heart may have been in the right place — he may have just been concerned for the safety of the Ark — his hand was in the wrong place: on the Ark.

This incident reminds me how God treats His holiness. He expects His instructions to be obeyed and He expects those who are His to treat holy things as holy.

Father, please help me to treat holy things as holy.