SOAP Journal – 30 October 2017 (2 Samuel 5:17-25)

When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard [of it], he went down to the stronghold.

2 Samuel 5:17

David has been established as king over all Israel. It is at this time that the Philistines decide that they need to do something about David. So they spread out in a valley and David asks God what he (David) should do. God tells David to go fight the Philistines. David obeys God and is victorious. The Philistines spread out in that same valley on another occasion and David goes to ask God again whether or not he should go fight the Philistines. God gives David a qualified “Yes.” this time around, giving David tactical directions. David obeys again and is victorious again.

The story is straightforward. David is threatened. David asks God what to do. God tells David what to do. David does what God told him to do. David is victorious.

The same pattern has been true in my own life. When things threatened — difficulties, dissolution of relationships, temptations — and I went to God for the game plan, I found victory if I obeyed and stuck to the game plan that God gave me. I often point to the end of an engagement many years ago as a prime example of asking God what to do and seeing it work when I was obedient. When I obeyed and did what God told me, I had peace in the midst of a difficult time and things moved along better than I thought they would. When I disobeyed, I found the peace departed and things no longer ran smooth. Just as straightforward as this account from the life of David.

The application is just as plain: Go to God for the plan when things seem threatening then obediently do what God tells me to and I will find victory. Victory may not be the thing that I would prefer it to be — sometimes relationships need to end and my life needs difficulties to increase my dependence on God — but it will always be what is best for me.

Father, thank You for this reminder from David’s life that seeking Your direction and obeying Your direction are the keys to victory. Please keep me mindful of this and obedient to Your direction.


SOAP Journal – 13 September 2017 (1 Samuel 17)

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.”

1 Samuel 17:45

The story of David and Goliath is so well known that a retread of it seems superfluous. The brief synopsis of the story goes this way: The Philistines and Israelites mixed it up. Out from the Philistines came a champion named Goliath. Dude was huge — 9-foot-something (1 cubit = 1 1/2 feet :: 6 cubits = 6 × 1.5 = 9) — and he defied the Israelites and their God … the LORD. This goes on twice a day for 40 days until David hears it and decides that the Philistine is done mocking the LORD. So, David goes out to battle in his shepherd’s gear, slams a stone right into Goliath’s forehead, then chops the giant’s head off.

The focus is, often, the underdog little guy defeating the giant and the story is used to encourage teams and companies and whatnot that are less likely to win in the contest. But that focus overlooks a key component: Why David went out.

It is not enough to say that the little guy went out and defeated the big guy. That works if we are trying to encourage the underdog, but it misses David’s motivation.

What David says is telling. He notes that Goliath comes out to fight with a sword, a spear, and a javelin. The giant is relying on his martial prowess; his fighting skill to see him through. When you are over 9 feet tall and your weapons weigh as much as some of the people you fight, we might forgive you for thinking that your skill could carry you through. King Saul notes that Goliath was a warrior from his youth (v. 33). Long experience and a proven track record all seemed to be on Goliath’s side. And I can fall into the same trap. I, too, might have a record of success and be tempted to rely on my own abilities.

David, in contrast, comes out to the fight in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. This is not David’s fight, but God’s. David does not come out on his own merits, but in the reputation and authority of the LORD. And David also notes that it was God, not the Israelites, that Goliath had been taunting. Goliath had set himself up for failure. He just did not know it.

From this familiar story, I take away the following applications.

One, I should not rely on my own abilities to carry me through the battles in life. To do so is, like Goliath, to set myself up for failure. It does not matter if I have a track record of victory in that particular battle. Overconfidence has undone more armies and warriors in history than almost anything else.

Two, I need to rely on God to fight the battles in life. If I am truly living my life so as to please Him, then the battles are His anyway. It is His reputation on the line and He will see to it that His Name is glorified.

No reliance on self and total reliance on God. Simple, but not easy.

Father, thank You for the story of David and Goliath. Thank You for the reminder that self-confidence is a path to defeat and reliance on You is the path to victory. Please give me eyes that see where my reliance is and a will that seeks to rely on You.

SOAP Journal – 10 July 2017 (Joshua 12:7-24)

Now these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the sons of Israel defeated beyond the Jordan toward the west, from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon even as far as Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir; and Joshua gave it to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their divisions, in the hill country, in the lowland, in the Arabah, on the slopes, and in the wilderness, and in the Negev; the Hittite, the Amorite and the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite … in all, thirty-one kings.

Joshua 12:7-24

Chapter 12 is a recounting of the victories of the conquest of the Promised Land. This recounting is in summary form, which makes sense as the detail is included earlier in the book and in other books. The first 6 verses summarize the victories led by Moses before the Israelites crossed the Jordan. Verses 7-24 — this morning’s passage — summarize the victories won under Joshua’s command.

What caught my attention is the number of kings defeated. I am no numerologist and cannot say whether or not 31 has any special significance in its own right, but it is the number of days in the longest months on the calendar. It is almost as if God is saying that there is victory to be won every day. And the next chapter begins with God telling an old Joshua that there is still a lot of land left to conquer. No matter how much victory is in my past, there are still more victories yet to be won.

The Promised Land is viewed metaphorically in many ways. The way that I view it, the Promised Land is my self. What I want to conquer and have dominion over is my own mind and heart and all … in short, my self. To take possession of my self, control must be wrested from various little despots like wrong ways of thinking and sins over which I am not yet victorious. And there always seems to be some other petty tyrant in my life doing its level best to ruin all the good work that God has already accomplished.

July has, for me, gotten off to a rocky start. It is not that there has been much defeat, but rather that there have been a few seemingly small victories. God already conquered a Jericho in my life in the form of anger. He has conquered many other areas, as well. But there are still giants in the land and there are still little tyrants in my heart and mind waging war with God and with me. They will be defeated, but I am glad of the reminder that there are always the victories whose stories are told and the victories that only really show up in summarized fashion. Some are worth recounting in their entirety. Others deserve only a footnote. But all are victories and worthy of some note.

Father, thank You that the victories are Yours and therefore the battles are also Yours. Please continue to lead me through the battles in my life to take possession of my Promised Land: me.

SOAP Journal – 30 June 2017 (Joshua 11:21-22)

Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained. 

Joshua 11:21-22

The Anakim, I know from other reading, are a lineage that produced giants. Whether this was simply genetic  or if there was something supernatural going on is up for debate, but these were people of unusual size. Goliath is mentioned as a giant (I think he was one of the Rephaim, though, and not one of the Anakim) and his given dimensions place him over 9 feet tall. These Anakim were not pushovers. This is the Israelites fighting the first string warriors. And dominating.

The key to this dominance is God fighting on behalf of the Israelites. But that was yesterday’s focal point. This morning, I find myself noting the order in which God took the Israelites through the conquest. He began them with a spectacular victory over Jericho that put the fear of God into the people in the land. Ai came next, after a hiccough involving Achan taking things that were God’s. Then it was an unbroken string of victories with God in constant communication with Joshua about when it was acceptable to step out onto the battlefield. God rounds things out with the extermination of the Anakim from the Promised Land.

I find this interesting, because I wonder if a similar pattern might be a principle in my own life. God won a spectacular victory in my life early on by bringing my anger under control and He has been making steady inroads on all the areas in my life that need to be conquered in order to conform me to the image of His Son. But there are giants. There are battles that seem so daunting that I am mot sure I have enough in the W column to be comfortable walking into that battle. I have had too many Achan times in my life when I got things all out of order and was soundly defeated (times that left me aching – yes, the pun is terrible and I love it). Too much in the L column to feel ready to face down the giants in my life. And maybe that is the pattern God works with. Maybe He works me through battling smaller challenges up to the giants in the land.

Father, thank You for winning victories in my life and for continuing to conform me to the image of Your Son. I know that there is still much to be done and I trust that You will complete the work so hat I can stand blameless in Your presence one day. Please continue to conquer more of my life and bring it into obedience to Christ.

SOAP Journal – 31 May 2017 (Deuteronomy 20:1-4)

When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots [and] people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. He shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’

Deuteronomy 20:1-4

I love how straightforward this morning’s verses are. The Israelites know that they are going into a populated land and that there are battles ahead. God warns them in advance that they will see horses and chariots [and] people more numerous than [them]. This is made clear by the word that begins the passage: When.

The battle is not a hypothetical. The odds are not hypothetical. God knows full well that He is sending the Israelites into a situation where their only hope of victory is Him. And He instructs the priest to be in the battlefield and to encourage the troops with a reminder: the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. OR, to use the phrasing of another verse: the battle belongs to the LORD.

As a believer, I, too, will encounter horses and chariots [and] people more numerous than [me]. Not physical horses or chariots, but spiritual and emotional and mental. I have sometimes heard the emotions compared to wild horses. The comparison is apt. Sometimes unbidden thoughts come in armored transports (chariots) and I have to fight them differently than I combat other thoughts. And always I am faced with the fact that I am one against however many the enemies may be. Lustful thoughts and angry thoughts and prideful thoughts and pride itself and anger itself and discouragement, just to name a few.

In the face of overwhelming odds, I am not [to] be fainthearted … not [to] be afraid, or panic. I am to gird myself up as a man and face the battle, because the LORD [my] God is the one who goes with [me], to fight for [me] against [my] enemies, to save [me]. The battles I fight are not mine alone. I fight them with my God, Who is ready to fight for me. Am I outnumbered? God goes with me and it is now my adversaries that are outnumbered. Am I fighting alone? God goes with me into my battles, even when no one else does or can. Am I too weak to fight anymore? God will fight for me. God will save me.

Life is not always easy. It is often difficult. And the Christian life has the added difficulty of working out my salvation with fear and trembling and of standing in opposition to the lusts of the eyes and of the flesh and the boastful pride of life. I often feel outnumbered, outclassed, and wearied from the fight. But the LORD [my] God is the one who goes with [me], to fight for [me] against [my] enemies, to save [me].

Father, thank You for fighting for me. Thank You for standing with me when no one else will and when no one else can. Thank You for saving me. Please keep me mindful of to Whom the battles in my life belong and remind me to stand and see what You will do.

SOAP Journal – 27 March 2017 (Numbers 21:22-24)

“Let me pass through your land. We will not turn off into field or vineyard; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the king’s highway until we have passed through your border.” But Sihon would not permit Israel to pass through his border. So Sihon gathered all his people and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon [was] Jazer.

Numbers 21:22-24

The Israelites, in their wanderings, had to pass through kingdoms. When they arrived at some of them — the kingdom of the Moabites and the kingdom of the Amorites, for example — the Israelites sent in messengers asking permission to pass through. The statement made was the same each time they asked permission and boiled down to a promise not to take any of the resource of the land or to pay for whatever they might need. The king of Moab refuses to let the Israelites pass through his kingdom, so the Israelites go around. The king of the Amorites, on the other hand, gets hostile and comes out with his army.

The mistrust shown by the king of Moab seems somewhat reasonable. A large group of wandering people presents a very real danger to a settled nation. So the king of Moab refuses. Twice. And the Israelites go around.

The king of the Amorites is a different story. By this time, word has probably reached him that the Israelites are wandering around and there had to have been reports that everything was fine while they were present and after they left. The Amorites had even taken land from the Moabites a generation prior, thus presumably had a stronger military and the Israelites went around when the Moabites told them they could not pass through. The king’s violent response seems out of proportion to the real and perceived danger.

So Sihon, king of the Amorites, brings out his army and fights against the Israelites. And he loses. The Israelites end up defeating Sihon and his army and wiping out the people living there and living in the cities.

There is a lesson on both sides of this exchange.

From the Israelites, I learn that starting with the peaceful option will not always result in a peaceful outcome. The Israelites tried to just pass through quietly. They sent in messengers and asked permission and would, presumably, have gone around if told that they could not pass through. Sihon did not leave them a peaceful option.

From Sihon and the Amorites I learn that I need to rightly understand the situation. Maybe Sihon thought that his army could take the Israelites — and the raw numbers might have backed his thoughts on the matter. Maybe Sihon thought that the Israelites presented a more dire threat to his people than they actually did. In any event, Sihon did not take the time to fully understand the situation and ended up defeated and dead.

So it is that I might try to do things peacefully and not be permitted the peaceful path by those with whom I am dealing. I might wrongly evaluate the situation and end up defeated. Let me begin with the peaceful solution, but be aware that it may not be permitted to proceed. Let me take the time to fully understand the situation in which I find myself and to act when I am as certain as I can be that I am acting from a place of prayer and thoughtfulness, not from a reactionary impulse.

Thank You, Father, for this account. Thank You for the reminder that the peaceful way is not always allowed  by everyone and for the reminder that not every situation is quite as dire as I might be inclined to think it is. Please slow my impulse to react and let me pray and think first. Please teach me to begin with the peaceful option but to be ready to deal with the alternative if the peaceful option is not pursued by those with whom I must deal.