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.

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SOAP Journal – 21 March 2018 (2 Kings 5:20-27)

Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go [with you], when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants?”

2 Kings 5:26

After Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy, he tried to convince Elisha to take a gift from him. It was not unheard of for prophets to receive gifts from those who benefited from the prophet’s ministry. But Elisha refused any gift. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, thought that Elisha was letting Naaman off too easy by not taking something from the man. So, Gehazi ran after Naaman and lied, saying that Elisha had received visitors and was asking for something to give them as a gift. Naaman did not think it at all strange and sent Gehazi back with twice as much as he asked. The price of those gains was that Gehazi became a leper and the leprosy would remain in his family line forever.

The heading inserted in the Bible I am reading from titles this section “Gehazi’s Greed” and I am sure that greed played a part in what Gehazi did. But it is possible that there was another motivation behind what Gehazi did. Verse 20 tells me that Gehazi thought, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” It seems that the primary motivation was not greed. Instead, it appears that Gehazi felt that Elisha had spared Naaman. The word that is rendered spared in English could also mean to withhold, keep back, keep for oneself, keep from, hold in check, refrain, reserve, restrain, or check. It is entirely possible that Gehazi had a good intent. He may have thought that Elisha was holding back Naaman’s generosity. Whatever his reasoning, it was human and not Godly. And the issue, whatever the motivation, is disobedience.

I can have the best or worst motivation and neither one turns disobedience into obedience. If God tells me to cut off a relationship and I continue it, I may have all the best intentions for remaining in that relationship yet still be disobedient and out of God’s will. If God tells me to walk away form some golden opportunity and I pursue it despite His instruction, I am disobedient. It does not matter if my income does not change because I give the difference to God’s work. I still disobeyed. Samuel asked King Saul if God took as much pleasure in sacrifice as in obedience, then answered the question: To obey is better than sacrifice. Whatever my motivation for disobedience; whether noble or ignoble, God will not be pleased with my disobedience. To obey is better.

Thank You, Father, for another reminder that obedience is best. Please give me an obedient heart; one that seeks to please You by doing as You command.

SOAP Journal – 07 February 2018 (1 Kings 13)

Now it came about, as they were sitting down at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the LORD, and have not observed the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you … your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.’”

1 Kings 13:20-22

1 Kings 13 is all about obedience. Jeroboam built altars and set up high places and started a system of worship that was not the one that God had ordained. This disobedience led to God sending a prophet from Judah to let Jeroboam know that the false worship would not stand. The prophet had been given instructions to go straight to where Jeroboam was and go straight home, not taking the same route in either direction — not even stopping for a cup of water along the way. Neither man was obedient. And each man’s disobedience came at a cost.

Jeroboam’s disobedience cost him the chance at a lasting dynasty on the throne of the northern kingdom. God had promised Jeroboam that his family line would be established as kings in the north if only he and his sons would be obedient. They were not.

The prophet’s disobedience cost him his life and any chance of being buried with his family. The whole concept of being buried in the family tomb was kind of a big deal and to be placed in another location just was not desirable.

It all comes back to obedience. Obedience establishes families in God’s promises. Obedience honors my God. Obedience is what God wants from me. As Samuel said, To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22).

Father, thank You for this reminder that obedience is what You want from me. You do not want me to sacrifice or anything more or less than to obey Your command and pay attention when You speak to me. Please give me ears that hear Your voice and a will that responds in obedience.

SOAP Journal – 01 November 2017 (2 Samuel 6:1-11)

And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.

2 Samuel 6:7

This chapter opens with David wanting to bring the Ark into Jerusalem. So David gets a new cart and gets the Ark on the cart and starts moving. While the Ark traveled, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of [instruments made of] fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. (v 5). The problem comes when  the oxen nearly upset the Ark (v 6) and Uzzah reaches out to steady it. Uzzah’s death brings the transportation of the Ark to a halt for the next three months (V 11).

It would be easy to look at this incident and be angry with God. David was (v 8). But God was driving home a lesson: He is Holy is must be treated as such. This is where we can get into the “But what about …” scenarios. What about the Philistines putting the Ark in the temple of their gods? No Philistines died transporting the Ark then. And it is true. The Philistines did not die while transporting the Ark. They did, however, suffer sores and have the massive statue of one of their gods slammed face down to the floor of the temple. And they learned. They sent the Ark back to Israel.

What is more, the Ark was to be carried by Levites using the poles that were a part of the Ark’s design. Putting the Ark on a cart was an act of disobedience to God’s command. Had David been obedient to that, then there would have been no need to keep the Ark from falling off a cart.

This account emphasizes two things: (1) God is Holy  and must be treated as Holy and (2) obedience takes away the opportunity for further temptation. This second is not to say that I will never be tempted if I walk in obedience to God, but rather that obedience to one command now will prevent the temptation to disobey in some other area down the way. Obeying God’s command not to bear false witness means that I will not have to continue to bear that false witness or do something worse. As Mark Twain once put it, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” The same is true of all the Ten Commandments. If I begin with having no other gods, then I will find it much simpler to obey the True and Living God.

Father, thank You for this reminder that You are Holy and that I must treat You as Holy. Please help me understand all that this entails and to walk in obedience to You.

SOAP Journal – 01 September 2017 (1 Samuel 13:13-14)

Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

1 Samuel 13:13-14

To put these verses in context, Saul’s son Jonathan had killed the Philistine garrison in Geba and provoked war with the Philistines. The Philistines massed their army and came out for a fight, but the Israelites were not ready for a fight. They had no swords or spears and they had not asked God what they should do. Seven days go by like this and Saul gets impatient. Saul decides to offer sacrifices to God himself.

Sacrifices were to be offered by the priests and prophets, not by the king. And Samuel arrives just after Saul finishes the first of the two offerings planned. This morning’s verses are Samuel’s response.

Saul forfeited the kingdom through disobedience. Samuel says that God would have established Saul’s kingdom forever were it not for Saul’s disobedience. Instead, God decided to find a man after His own heart; an obedient man to make king over the Israelites.

How many blessings do we forego because we are not obedient? How many times has God wanted to establish something over which He had placed me and my disobedience prevented it? That is what this is a reminder of. These verses remind me that my disobedience can prevent God from establishing; from making solid and secure and permanent any work that I am a part of.

Thank You, Father, for this reminder of what my disobedience can cost. Please keep this in my mind when I am tempted to disobey Your commands.

SOAP Journal – 09 May 2017 (Deuteronomy 9:6)

Know, then, [it is] not because of your righteousness [that] the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.

Deuteronomy 9:6

Moses goes on, after this verse, to give a recounting of some examples of how the Israelites have been a stubborn people. The thrust of what Moses is saying; the crux of the thing is this: God is giving you good things in spite of how you behave.

It is a necessary lesson. And it is repeated in the New Testament. Paul elaborates on it a bit, though he never quotes this concept or refers back to this verse specifically (Romans 7:18-25).

And it is still true. Sometimes, God blesses me as a reward for good behavior. Blessings most often take the form of greater joy and peace in my heart or more patience with others and I would not trade those for anything. But there are sometimes material blessings that come along in spite of my disobedience. I read, after all, that God sends His sun and His rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). In an agrarian society, sun and rain are the pathway to material blessing; a good harvest. Sometimes, it appears that the intangible blessings come despite disobedience, as in the case of Jonah, who slept through the storm. That is some serious peace.

The takeaway is twofold.

First, God wants to do good to people at all times. He wants to bless us. Sometimes, blessings come in spite of our disobedience. This does not make those times right or absolve me of that disobedience or somehow sanction it. Instead, I need to be mindful that God’s blessing is not always because I have done well. Sometimes it is because He is a generous God.

Second, my obedience prompts further blessing. The Bible tells me that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). If I want to live a life that is as blessed as possible, then I need to be obedient. This will not always be material blessing, though God will meet all my needs. This will more often be intangible blessings like joy and peace and all the things that are so difficult to discipline myself to do and be, but simply come as a byproduct of living in the Spirit.

Father, thank You for Your goodness toward us. We do not deserve it. We cannot deserve it. But You bless us all the same. Please cause Your goodness to lead me to repentance and obedience that I might walk with You and in the intangible blessings that You are ready and willing to give.

SOAP Journal – 24 March 2017 (Numbers 20:12)

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

Numbers 20:12

Numbers 20:8-13 is the account of the waters of Meribah. God tells Moses and Aaron to take the blossoming rod from the tabernacle and speak to a specific rock and get water for the Israelites. Moses and Aaron, instead, take the rod and chastise the Israelites and hit the rock with the rod. Verse 12 is God’s response to their disobedience.

The obvious lesson here is that God’s work must be done in God’s way or there will be consequences. Both Moses and Aaron heard the instructions. Only Moses is recorded as being disobedient, but Aaron could have stepped in to remind Moses of what he should have been doing. In the end, neither one is permitted to enter into the Promised Land. Aaron dies a short while later on a mountaintop and Moses will go up to a mountaintop to look at the Promised Land from a distance before he also dies. All the work; all the prayer and agonizing over the Israelites and one act of disobedience was enough to keep them out of the Promised Land. And I have to wonder why.

The New Testament sheds some light on the why. The rock that Moses strikes is said to be a metaphor for Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). God was putting together a picture of Christ and Moses and Aaron marred that image. I can only guess what God might have said through Moses and Aaron being obedient. Instead, I have a lesson in the consequences of disobedience.

The consequences are twofold, in the case of this incident.

The first and most important consequence is marring the work of God. God was doing something and Moses and Aaron disobeying Him and His instruction distorted the picture God was painting. The message did not come through clearly. And we still lack what might have been.

The second consequence is the personal cost to Moses and Aaron. These two had endured much in trying to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. There are many recorded instances of one or both of these men on their faces in intercession for the Israelites. More than once, God goes to bat for these men and reaffirms His choice of them as His representatives. And God does not revoke His choice. These men remain His representatives until their deaths. But their disobedience in this matter comes with a cost of not being able to enter the Promised Land.

What cost does my disobedience carry? There is the obvious cost of Christ’s redeeming work, but there are, possibly, other costs that I do not always consider. If my disobedience is public, then I damage the image of God’s work and character to those who know I am a believer and see my disobedience. Even the disobedience I think is private can be known and can distort how others perceive God. This, I suspect, is part of why Samuel told Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice. It is better to keep the picture intact than to try to mend it.

Father, please forgive me for the times I have mangled Your image by my disobedience. Please keep me mindful of the costs of disobedience and strengthen me to be obedient and to represent You faithfully.