SOAP Journal – 04 January 2018 (1 Kings 2:5-9)

So act according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace.

1 Kings 2:6

Yesterday, I considered the first part of David’s last bit of advice to Solomon before his (David’s) death. This morning, I turn my attention to the last part of that advice.

David knows that when Solomon inherits the throne, he will also inherit all the problems that go along with it. This includes all of the challenging people that David has yet to deal with and all of the excellent people who supported David. David calls out two individuals that could be a problem for Solomon and one group that he should keep close.

The two problem people that David points out are Joab and Shimei.

Joab has been too much for David to handle. Whether this is because David felt like he needed Joab’s military prowess or because there was some sort of friendship there I cannot say, but David has not dealt with Joab. Since Joab was among those who supported Adonijah’s bid for the throne, this makes him particularly troublesome for the newly-crowned King Solomon. Solomon deals with Joab (vv 28-35) not long after David’s death.

Shimei is the man who cursed David as David was fleeing Jerusalem to avoid fighting Absalom. Shimei cursed and threw rocks and so on. Shimei came out and seemed to be trying to make amends when Davis returned to Jerusalem, but something  in Shimei’s behavior since that time must have given David a reason to think that Shimei was still a potential threat, as he counsels Solomon do not let him go unpunished, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you will bring his gray hair down to Sheol with blood (v 9). Solomon follows the advice that a person keep his enemies close and commands Shimei to live in Jerusalem and never leave on penalty of death. Shimei eventually leaves and Solomon makes good on his word and Shimei is executed (vv 36-46).

The family of Barzillai is mentioned as a group to whom Solomon ought to show kindness for the sake of David. I do not see it mentioned in this chapter, but it is likely to have been done as Solomon listened to the rest of David’s advice.

This portion of David’s advice and Solomon’s adherence to it remind me that we often inherit our parents’ friends and enemies. Both of my parents have friends who have looked to do good for me in times past (and present) and I know that those friends will be there for my sibling and me as long as they are alive. I suspect that there are those who would seek to do me harm, as well, based on their history with my parents.

All of this translates upward. The LORD is the King of Kings and coming to Him for salvation is likened to adoption into His family. This makes believers heirs to His kingdom. It also means that we inherit His friends and His enemies. There have been times when I found immediate kinship with fellow believers and learned of them being believers only later. We are both friends of the same King and looked to do one another good because of it. Likewise, I have encountered those who are hostile to God and that hostility carries over to me. It has not happened often, but it has happened. And I have seen those who oppose God in one way or another oppose believers in the very same way. Solomon responded to these adversaries in the way that he was instructed by his father, David. I ought also respond to my adversaries as my Father has instructed: pray for them.

Father, thank You for this reminder that inheritance of Your kingdom also involves inheritance of Your allies and enemies; Your friends and foes. Thank You for the reminder that the King — You — has already advised me how to deal with those who oppose the kingdom. Please give me a heart that wants to pray for those who oppose You and, by extension, my attempts to walk in Your ways.

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SOAP Journal – 03 January 2018 (1 Kings 2:1-4)

I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man.

1 Kings 2:2

A little over a year ago, I transitioned from one employer to another and found myself constantly thinking of one more thing that the man taking my spot needed to know before I left. I suspect that David, seeing the end of his life approach, felt much the same way about his son, Solomon. It always seems that we realize how much we have left undone and the things we wish we had told those who will succeed us when we reach the end of our time in a place or position. David’s charge to Solomon actually takes the first nine verses of the chapter, but it is the first four that I want to zero in on this morning. In those verses, David gives Solomon advice about how to conduct himself that generalize well.

First, David tells Solomon that he (David) is going the way of all the earth. David recognizes that his end is no different than anyone else’s. The way that David puts it is, probably, a euphemism that was in use at the time, but it still communicates a fundamental truth about death that we are wont to overlook, viz. Everyone dies. We often try to escape it by doing anything we can to forestall the inevitable — working out, eating healthy, doing “cleanses,” using creams and lotions, and all manner of other thing to keep ourselves looking and feeling young. This is, I suspect, mostly a Westernized societies thing. And, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with keeping fit or eating healthy, but those things ought to be done with the clear knowledge that it will not prevent us going the way of all the earth. A healthy awareness that we, like all the best stories, have an end can keep us from putting things off and help us to live in the here and now.

Second, David tells Solomon to be strong. The addition of therefore with the admonition to be strong tells me that the context of that strength is the death of David. Because David is about to die, Solomon must be strong. We are often sheltered by those who mentor us and try to grow us into who and what we will become. This is true with God , as well. God is often referred to as a shelter and He will sometimes draw back a small measure of that shelter in order to strengthen us, or so the book of Job would seem to indicate. The removal of God’s sheltering from Job’s life refined Job and brought wrong thinking to the surface for correction. Once the wrong thinking was corrected and Job strengthened, God’s sheltering was reestablished over Job’s life.

Third, David tells Solomon to become a man. This thought is a companion to the idea that Solomon should be strong. The idea communicated is that of coming to maturity. Solomon has not had to shoulder all of the responsibilities of a king, just yet. But he is about to. To govern wisely and well, Solomon will need to mature. And David has just the prescription for how to do this in the last admonition.

Fourth and finally, David tells Solomon to keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn. If I want to mature and be strong, then the best course is to keep the charge of the LORD. What is interesting about how David phrases this that he breaks out two distinct things that should be done: walking and keeping. David’s instruction is to keep; to observe the charge of the LORD and that charge is a twofold instruction: walk in His ways and observe His statutes, commandments, ordinances, and testimonies. To walk in His ways means to live in a manner that emulates God. The image I get is that of a child walking behind a parent and trying to copy their stride and rhythm and such. To do that, I need to observe God’s Word. This last instruction comes with a promise form God that David will not lack a descendant on the throne of Israel if those descendants will be careful to keep the charge of the LORD.

Let me keep in mind that I am not a permanent fixture of this planet and have only a certain amount of time. Let that awareness light a fire in me to mature in my faith and grow strong by living in a manner that seeks to copy my LORD.

Father, thank You for David’s instruction to Solomon. The words are good for me, too. Please keep me mindful, in the healthiest way possible, that my time here is limited and let that awareness spur me to live Godly in this moment.

SOAP Journal – 02 January 2018 (1 Kings 1)

The king vowed and said, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, surely as I vowed to you by the LORD the God of Israel, saying, ‘Your son Solomon shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place’; I will indeed do so this day.”

1 Kings 1:29-30

It feels right and proper that the change of year should bring with it a change of book and change of king.

The account opens with David being old and unable to keep warm. So, his servants find a young woman, Abishag, to stay close to him and help him stay warm. The text is quite clear that there is nothing sexual happening, but that Abishag is simply providing body heat to help David keep warm.

After David’s advanced age is established, the account turns to his children again. This time, a son by the name of Adonijah, one of Absalom’s younger siblings, has decided to set himself up as king. He gets Joab and Abiathar the priest in on it and heads on up to hold a feast. He did not get Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, or David’s Mighty Men in on the thing.

And it is Nathan who lets Bathsheba know what is happening so that she can go talk with David about it. Nathan gives her a script to work from and comes in repeating some of the major points. David hears them and seems to have learned enough from what happened with Absalom that he nips this thing in the bud.

David sends Zadok and Nathan and the Mighty Men down to Gihon with Solomon to anoint him as the next king and have Solomon ride on David’s own mule — a rough equivalent to flying him around in Air Force One. All of this makes it clear to the people that David’s successor is Solomon. David decides to make doubly sure by having Solomon take the throne in David’s presence while David is still alive to see it. This whole thing cements the path of succession in the minds of the people and those who are partying with Adonijah know it. The party breaks up quickly and Adonijah goes and takes hold of the horns of the altar.

In the chapters that follow, Solomon will establish his throne and things will settle down quite a bit, but there is quite the flurry of activity in this opening chapter.

This idea of the king letting the people know who would sit on his throne feels a bit like a parallel to what happened during Jesus’ ministry on Earth. At Jesus’ birth — an event that was recently celebrated (yes, I know it probably did not happen on December 25th, but that is hardly the point) — angels proclaimed the birth of the Savior. Even before Jesus’ birth, more than a few people had received word from God that the Messiah; His Son was coming. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from Heaven and made it clear that Jesus is His Son (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). And at the transfiguration, the Father repeats His statement that Jesus is His Son (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13; Luke 9:28-36). All of these events seem like the Father making clear the succession; the right of the Son to rule over Creation.

All of this boils down to a fundamental question: Do I actually believe that Jesus is my King? If I do, then He has every right to make demands on my time, my talents, my all. He is the Heir to the Father’s throne (Hebrews 1:2) and has the Creator’s right over the Creation — me. All of this language is metaphor — the Father is eternal and cannot die and therefore has no need of an Heir to inherit the throne after Him since there is neither after Him nor before Him — but serves to reinforce a basic truth to me, viz. Jesus has every right to make any and all claims on me and my life and my resources. It is mine to obey.

More than mere obedience, the people rejoiced when Solomon was made king. They were ecstatic to know to whom the throne belonged. Let me rejoice in knowing to Whom the throne of Creation belongs and rejoice still more that it is the Good Shepherd; the Lover of my Soul Who rules over Creation and should rule over me. Let me learn obedience and add to that obedience joy for the King Who is Chosen.

Father, thank You that the King You chose to rule over me and all Creation is none other than Your Beloved Son. Thank You that both You and He love us so. Please teach me to obey with joy and gladness in the knowledge that the One Who bids me do a thing has as His motivation for that command a divine love for me.

SOAP Journal – 29 December 2017 (2 Samuel 24)

However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy [it] from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

2 Samuel 24:24

This chapter is an account of God sending a disciplinary action on the Israelites after David has the fighting men numbered. There was nothing inherently wrong with numbering the fighting men, The Law includes a provision for taking a census and prescribes how often it should be done and God had, on occasion, commanded various leaders to number the people at their disposal. The wrong in the situation was that this census did not fall under either of those. A plague comes on the Israelites for three days and David makes a sacrifice on the threshing floor of a certain Jebusite to put an end to it. This account is paralleled in 1 Chronicles 21 with a few differences.

Difference #1: Who or What prompts David to number the fighting men. In Samuel, it says that the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them, but in Chronicles it says that Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. Some speculate that the difference is one of perspective: one account is looking from the earthly perspective and the other from the Heavenly. And this may very well be, but I think that the two are simply complementary. Satan stood up against Israel to make an accusation — probably a true one, since the Israelites (like most of us) regularly waffled between obedience and rebellion. The nation was at peace, so it is entirely possible that the people were getting lackadaisical about their relationship with God. It happens to a lot of us. God saw this and the anger of the LORD burned against Israel. This is seen often enough in the Old Testament that everything jives so far. But was is Satan or the anger of the LORD that moved or incited David to number the people? I do not know. It may be that one got the ball rolling (God’s anger) and the other took it too far (Satan). It may be some other thing that does not occur to me.

Difference #2: The numbers. Samuel gives the numbers of 800,000 and 500,000 for fighting men in Israel and Judah respectively. Chronicles gives these numbers as 1.1 million and 470,000. Both accounts agree on the number of people who died in the plague (70,000). But the accounts differ on the price paid for the threshing floor — 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor and oxen (Samuel) or 600 shekels of gold by weight for the place (Chronicles). The difference in price might be as simple a matter as how much of the property is included in the price named. It is possible that David bought much more of the property than just the threshing floor and paid the 600 shekels of gold for the whole place while the price of the threshing floor and oxen specifically was 50 shekels of silver. Where the numbers of the people are concerned, I do not know why they are different.

Difference #3: The name of the Jebusite. In Samuel, the man is named Araunah and in Chronicles he is named Ornan. This is hardly a difficulty at all, as so many figures in The Bible have more than one name. The most obvious examples are Paul (formerly Saul) and Peter (formerly Simon) and Israel (formerly Jacob), though the preceding chapter of Samuel included a list of David’s Mighty Men and the list began with Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite, chief of the captains, he was [called] Adino the Eznite.

Having pointed out the differences, they can more or less be ignored. And this is why: the message of this chapter is unchanged. It does not matter whether it was Satan or God’s anger that prompted David to number the people, it was David who did it — just as it does not matter whether I am tempted by Satan or my own lusts, to give in to either is still to transgression. Regardless of the exact numbers of fighting men, 70,000 people died. It does not matter whether the army is 1 million strong or 20 million strong, they were not able to stop the plague. Regardless of the exact price paid and for what or to whom, David’s statement that a sacrifice must cost him something is still the core of that portion of the account. The core message of a man doing something wrong, suffering consequence, and making things right with God is the same no matter which account I read or how I reconcile the differences between the two accounts.

This account is an echo to the story of redemption. Adam had dominion over the Earth and made a decision that spread out and affected everyone just as David had rule over Israel and decided to number the people. But my King, Jesus, the second Adam came along and paid a price; made a sacrifice that cost Him dearly and took away the sentence of death that was hanging over us all just as David bought the site and what was necessary to make the sacrifice that would stop the plague.

By way of personal application, I will do things that are wrong. I am not perfect. And I have authority over certain things (my life, my property, my body etc.). My choices and actions — wrong and right — will have consequences. Sometimes, those choices and actions will have consequences that affect more than me. And I need to repent and do whatever God instructs to set things right so that my relationship with God can be restored. More, I need to have the same heart that David had: Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me. That last request is also the heart of Jesus. Please let Your hand be against me. He took my punishment and paid my price because I could not. This sheep, what could I do?

Father, I must confess with David that it is I who have done wrong. Please let the consequence of my wrongs fall on me and me alone. Please shelter those who might be impacted by those consequences. They have done nothing when I transgress. When I do wrong and discipline or consequence comes, Please let Your hand be against me.

SOAP Journal – 28 December 2017 (2 Samuel 23:8-39)

These are the names of the mighty men whom David had …

2 Samuel 23:8

This list is not only the names of David’s Mighty Men, but also some of their more notable exploits.

First, the list gives a group called the three or the captains: Adino, Eleazar, and Shammah. Adino is credited with 800 kills in a single battle (v 8). Eleazar is notable for having gone into battle when the rest of the army seems to have been withdrawing and fighting until his hand was unable to release the sword, the rest of the army only coming in after the action to take spoil (vv 9-10). Shammah took his stand in what would be considered an indefensible position and held his ground until the enemy was defeated (vv 11-12). It is possible that these same three men overheard David voice a desire to drink from the well in Bethlehem while it was under Philistine control and so broke through the enemy lines to get David a drink from the well and bring it back to him. David refused to drink the water, instead pouring it out as an offering to the LORD, saying that it was the blood of the men who went (v 17).

After these, two of the more notable members of a group called the thirty are mentioned. Abishai, Joab’s brother, is mentioned as having killed 300 and becoming the leader of the thirty (vv 18-19). Benaiah is mentioned as having killed two notable warriors of Moab, a lion in a pit on a snowy day, and killing an Egyptian warrior by taking the warrior’s own weapon from him and using it to kill him (vv 20-23).

From there, the record moves on into simply naming the Mighty Men, though some have been recorded elsewhere in The Bible, Uriah the Hittite, for example.

This is all good information, but does not, at first glance, really seem to be applicable to me. But it is. There are parallels between David and the Son of David, Jesus Christ. Both had a large number of people at their disposal in their time, David’s was an army and Jesus’ was His disciples. Out of this mass of humanity, both had a smaller, more select group. David had his Mighty Men and Christ had apostles. David’s Mighty Men included leaders and standouts like the three and Jesus’ apostles included notable leaders like Peter, Paul, and John. In both instances, the field grew smaller based on what the people were willing to step out and do in faith. David’s men stepped out into literal battles to fight for God and His people and are commemorated in scripture for all time. Jesus’ disciples also stepped out in faith to serve God and His chosen and many of them are commemorated in scripture, such as Mark and Barnabbas and Tabitha and Priscilla and Aquila and Luke and Simeon.

This leaves me to ask where I fit into the schema. Am I a member of God’s ranks; a disciple known to God but not notable as far as God’s Kingdom is concerned? Am I one who steps out in faith and does mighty things for God and is listed on the roster of the mighty? Am I one who goes even further and walks into places that sends my fellow believers fleeing so that I am counted as even more notable to my God and King? The answer depends on how far I am willing to step out in my faith. Not every disciple is recorded in The Bible. Not every believer does something worthy of note. Some of us are just dutiful soldiers to our King. We show up for the battle and we fight, but we do nothing extraordinary.

My Father and my King, thank You for this record of those who served David mightily. I know that there are many unrecorded soldiers who served him as there are many saints  who have served and still serve You. Whether or not I ever attain to a list of Mighty Men in Your eyes, please let me be found a faithful soldier in the faith. Let me stand and fight when You command it.

SOAP Journal – 27 December 2017 (2 Samuel 23:1-7)

The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.

2 Samuel 23:2

I skip over 2 Samuel 22 in terms of considering it more deeply as it is included in the book of Psalms (Psalm 18) and will likely be considered when I reach that psalm.

This passage is, according to verse 1, the last words of David. These words could also be understood as David’s last speech or song. Since 2 Samuel continues on for a couple more chapters and David does and says more after this, this is either his last song or the otherwise chronological nature of the book has been thrown out the window in this one instance. Since the breaking of chronological pattern makes no sense, this is, most likely, the last song David composed.

He begins the song, as he does with many of his psalms, with a note on the author. Some of those notes are nothing more than A Psalm of David, while others are more extensive, such as For the choir director. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul (Psalm 18:1), or what is seen here: David the son of Jesse declares, The man who was raised on high declares, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel (23:1). This authorial note tells me four things about David’s perception of himself.

First, David saw himself as the son of Jesse. He saw himself as a regular, run-of-the-mill person. He was not the son of a king or a prophet or any other such. His father was Jesse, just a regular man.

Second, David saw himself as having been raised on high. David did not see himself as having attained to anything on his own, but rather by God having raised him up. Contrast this perception with that of so many other kings in history and David has a relatively unique perspective on his position.

Third, David saw himself as the anointed of the God of Jacob. Not only had David been elevated by God, but it was God Who had chosen him to be king over Israel. What is more, it is not the God of Israel that David points to, but the God of Jacob. This is an important distinction, as God refers to Jacob and Israel almost interchangeably, but most frequently refers to Israel in times of obedience and Jacob in times of disobedience and rebellion. For example, God tells the sons of Jacob that it is due to God’s unchanging nature that they have not been destroyed in spite of their transgression and wandering (Malachi 3:6). David sees himself as having been chosen and anointed by the God Who is over the rebellious and the transgressor, an important thing for David whose life had its fair share of both.

Fourth and finally, David sees himself as the sweet psalmist of Israel. He wrote much, if not most, of the book of Psalms and had much to say in praise of God.

In light of all of this, David plunges onward and tells his audience that the Spirit of the LORD spoke by him (v 2) and to him (v 3). And God’s Spirit said, in essence, that the man who rules righteously and in fear of the LORD is a blessing to all. David then pivots and considers his own house. He sees his legacy (his house) as being a blessing to all due to the covenant that God has made with him. God made a promise and David is banking on that promise long before its fulfillment. He closes with a statement about the worthless and how they cannot be handled (vv 6-7).

The application for me in this is in David’s view of himself. He has a realistic view of himself and his place in things. He is no one special, just the son of a nobody from nowhere. He did not attain his position by his own merits or abilities, but was raised up and chosen by God for the post. And what he sees as potentially his greatest achievement is not some kingly act or feat in battle, but is a lifetime’s worth of praises and prayers to God. Do I have such a view of myself? I need to be mindful of who I am and who I am not. I need to remember that any position I attain in life is ultimately because God elevated me there and that He has a reason for doing so. And I should be living my life so that I can look back and see a life spent in pursuit of God. David was aware of all of these things and is remembered as a man after God’s own heart. Let my heart be likewise mindful of what I am and am not.

Father, thank You for David’s openness with his audience. It is needful to be reminded that no one is anything except You have allowed it or caused it to happen. Please keep my mind and heart aware of what I am and am not.

SOAP Journal – 20 December 2017 (2 Samuel 21:15-22)

These four were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.

2 Samuel 21:22

These eight verses contain several bits of information. In verses 15-17, David goes out to war with his army and his age starts to assert itself. He grows weary while in battle and is saved by one of his men — Abishai, the son of Zeruiah and brother to Joab. After that incident, his men compelled him to stay home from the wars as they reasoned that Israel needed its king more than the soldiers needed him on the battlefield. Verses 18-22 then go on to detail how David’s men did some giant-killing of their own. David, their king and general, had set the example when he killed Goliath. Some of his men  received the message: God gives victory over giants.

And that, in brief, is my application for today. God gives victory over giants. David walked out and faced Goliath. David’s men went to war and killed giants. Jesus, the Son of David, went to the cross and killed the giant Sin. I, too, can go out in the strength of my God and face the giants in my life.

Father, thank You that You make any of Your children who steps out in Your strength a giant killer. Please teach me to step out in Your strength and face the giants in my life.