SOAP Journal – 05 January 2018 (1 Kings 2:10-25)

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne; then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.

1 Kings 2:19

In verses 10-12, David dies and Solomon is left as the king without his father to give him counsel. In that moment, I am reasonably sure that Solomon felt overwhelmed. He had gone from being one of the king’s sons to being the king. That is quite a change.

And it is in these early days of Solomon’s reign that Adonijah has a chat with Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and asks her to take a request to her son. In this is a picture of intercession; of going to one who can supply on behalf of another who does not have the necessary standing to make the request. Adonijah asks for Abishag as a wife and Bathsheba, apparently unaware of the political ramifications of such a marriage, agrees to ask Solomon to make that happen.

And she does. Bathsheba goes to see her son and asks him to give Abishag to Adonijah as wife. Solomon sees the ramifications of such a union instantly. If he lets Adonijah marry a woman who was that close to David, the people would at best be confused about who was really the king and at worst would think that Solomon was ceding the throne to Adonijah. Solomon understands that this is not a request that Bathsheba would have come up with, but that she was put up to this request by Adonijah. Solomon sees in this a continued pursuit of the throne, despite God’s choice, and decides to put an end to it. Adonijah is executed.

I find encouragement for my prayers in this passage. It may seem odd to look at a mother asking her son for something that would spell political suicide and the resultant execution of the reigning king’s half -brother and see encouragement to pray, but it is there.

Adonijah asks Bathsheba to go to Solomon on his behalf. So far, the picture of intercession is clear. This is exactly how it works. Someone who lacks standing or relationship asks one who has both to make request on their behalf. Add to this picture the relative simplicity of the one being asked to intercede. If I have an effective prayer life, a friend or colleague may ask me to pray to God on their behalf that some circumstance be changed. Like Bathsheba, I do not see all the ramifications of the request. I cannot look forward and backward down the corridors of time to see that this was the inevitable consequence of some previous action or that this is the more merciful of the possible circumstances that could be transpiring at that moment. My vision is limited. My scope of understanding small compared to my King.

Bathsheba goes and makes the request. Knowing what little she knows of the situation, she takes things to her son, the king. And the king receives her. He comes to greet her and has a place of honor set up for her to sit and talk with him. Likewise my King is only too glad to meet with me when I come to Him in prayer. He meets me and takes time to sit with me and hear what I have to say.

Solomon hears Bathsheba and denies her petition and explains why. The text is pretty clear that Solomon understood where Adonijah’s request could lead. What is more important is that Solomon explains to Bathsheba why the request is denied. The text does not give any indication that she got up in a huff and stormed out of the king’s presence. Nor does the text indicate that she was any less welcome the next time she visited her son in the throne room. So, too, if I will but take the time to make my requests known to God and sit a while, He may very well explain why some requests are denied while others are cheerfully granted. He may decide that I need to understand the implications of the thing I am asking — implications of which I may be wholly unaware.

All of this encourages me to pray; to take any and all petitions to God with the understanding that He will refuse any request that does not further His kingdom and is willing to help me understand why the thing I ask does not contribute to that furtherance. God does not want me to be some thrall, held to Him because I have no choice in the matter. He wants me to grow from child to trusted steward to intimate friend. And one of the ways He does that is to give me understanding; to teach me so that I can pray in the right way and for the right things.

Thank You, Father, for this passage that encourages my prayer. I need the encouragement, as I do not pray in the way that I should or as often as I should. Please stir in my heart a desire to sit with You and pour out my heart and listen as Your pour out Yours. Let me grow from child to steward to friend and to increase my boldness in prayer proportionate to the relationship.

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SOAP Journal – 31 March 2017 (Numbers 27:5)

So Moses brought their case before the LORD.

Numbers 27:5

Moses had given out the LORD’s directive about how the Promised Land would be split up and who got an inheritance. Into this situation enter the daughters of a man who died in the wilderness with no sons. Since the law of the time was that sons inherited from fathers, the women came to Moses and set the situation before him. Their father was dead, they had no brothers, they believed that they should inherit in their father’s name. This morning’s verse is Moses’ response to that.

There are a couple of things that I notice about this.

First, Moses did not rely on his own wisdom. I am wont to do that. I sometimes think that a situation is so obvious that I need not bother God with it. The women’s logic seems sound to me, looking back at it from now, but Moses might have been struggling with the social norms of his time or any number of things that I do not know about. Moses takes the matter to God. This is an excellent example for me. I should bring anything and everything to God. I should seek God’s wisdom about things — even things that might seem obvious.

Second, Moses brought their case before the LORD. There is no record of Moses injecting his own commentary or thoughts on the matter. He states their case and looks for God to answer them. As a believer, there will be times when people ask me to pray for them; to talk to God on their behalf. This might be fellow believers who are having a rough patch or non-believers who kind of sort of believe or think that it will not hurt anything to have me praying about things. In any situation, what I should be doing is the same: [bring] their case before the LORD. God does not need my commentary on the situation or my suggestions about how He should sort things. If I am relying on His wisdom, then I will simply state the facts and see what He does or says about things.

Father, thank You that You listen when we simply state our case or the case of others. Thank You for caring about what concerns us, even though we may think our cares inconsequential. Please work in me that I might rely on Your wisdom and simply state cases to You instead of trying to tell You how You ought to address them.

SOAP Journal – 21 March 2017 (Numbers 16:20-22)

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.”

But they fell on their faces and said, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will You be angry with the entire congregation?”

Numbers 16:20-22

This exchange occurs during the rebellion of Korah. This Levite named Korah and a bunch of other pepole along with him decided that they were tired of Moses and Aaron being seen as unique. Korah and company somehow got it into their heads that Moses and Aaron thought that they were something special, instead of simply acting in obedience to God. God, after listening to these guys mouth off about Moses and Aaron, speaks this morning’s first verse.

God tells Moses and Aaron to put some distance between themselves and the Israelites. Judgment is coming and God wants those who have been faithful to be at a safe distance. As is so often the case, God speaks the words that will prompt action. Moses and Aaron hit the ground in immediate intercession.

And their intercession is effective. They appeal to God’s character; to Who He is and ask if God will be angry with everyone for one man’s sin. The answer, of course, is that He will not.

As the story progresses, Korah and his crew stand opposite Aaron and Moses and die pretty terribly. Korah and the leaders of this little insurrection are swallowed whole by the earth. The ground opens up and down those men go. Their followers — about 250 men who had been offering incense outside the tabernacle — were consumed by fire from the LORD. The metal from the censers those men had been using was pounded into sheets and applied to the altar as a reminder to the rest of the Israelites whom God had chosen to minister and whom God had not chosen.

This offers some application to me.

First, whom God has chosen, God has chosen. I cannot change the person whom God has chosen for a particular work. And, if I knew everything that person endures in the work, maybe I would not want to.

Second, I need to intercede; to go between those who need representation before God and the God Who wants to do good for them. A good friend of mine hypothesizes that God, in order to limit the influence Satan and his minions can have in this world, limited His own avenues of influence. My friend’s idea is that God erected a barrier between the physical world and the spiritual and made the only way of moving through the wall by invitation from the physical side. So God looks for people who have already invited Him to live within them and prompts us to pray; to invite God and His power into situations that need Him. Whether or not my friend is correct, my Master — Jesus Christ —makes intercession for me and every other believer all the time (Hebrews 7:25). And I should be doing as my Master does.

Father, thank You that Whom You have chosen You have chosen and no man can change that choice. Thank You for the privilege of prayer, though I do not avail myself of that privilege as often as I should. Please teach me to pray and to hear Your voice prompting me to intercede where You desire to act and show Yourself mighty.

SOAP Journal – 12 January 2017 (Exodus 32:9-10)

The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”

Exodus 32:9-10

While Moses was on the mountain getting instructions from God about how to worship correctly, the Israelites were at the bottom of the mountain screwing up and doing it all wrong. Moses had been gone a long while and the people were freaking out. So they told Aaron to make them an idol. Aaron did make the calf with the idea that it was a symbol for God, but it was still wrong. He did, after all, say that they would celebrate a feast to the LORD (v 5).

When I come to passages like this, I need to apply what I know of God to them. At a glance, it looks like God is going back on His promise to Abraham. In Genesis 15, God tells Abraham that his descendants (plural) will be enslaved and that He (God) will bring them (plural) out and that they (plural) will return to the land that Abraham was in, viz. Canaan. This is not a promise to bring one guy out of Egypt into the Promised Land, although Moses singlehandedly conquering the Promised Land would be quite the story. The promise God made to Abraham was that He (God) would bring the whole of Abraham’s descendants out of Egypt. God has made good on that part of the promise. But the second part — the part about bringing them into the Promised Land — has not been fulfilled yet. So, God’s comment to Moses is either a contradiction or something else.

Anyone who has kids knows the value of reverse psychology. I have learned that it is sometimes best to make my daughter think that I want to do something entirely different than what I actually want to do and so lead her around to the place where I can both do what I want to do and have her participate gladly in it. This is important, because God is referred to as my Heavenly Father, so I can readily apply the best attributes of a father to Him. And this leading a child around to where he wants them to be is part and parcel of fatherhood — also of motherhood, I suspect, but I am not a mom and so do not know for certain.

So, which is it? Is God acting as a Father and leading Moses around to where He (God) wants him (Moses) or is God a capricious and self-contradicting individual? I know that God does not change and that His plans — particularly His plans for the Israelites — are for good and not for harm, I dismiss the idea of Him contradicting Himself. Then I must ask what God is trying to lead Moses around to.

The answer comes in the verses following. In verses 11-13, Moses intercedes for the Israelites beautifully, telling God that is was He (God) Who brought the Israelites out from Egypt and His (God’s) reputation that will be maligned if the Israelites are wiped out and that He (God) made promises to Abraham and Isaac and Israel/Jacob. This was all about God and Who He is and what He had promised. Verse 14 seems to imply that God is capable of changing His mind in the same sense that I am. That He can alter His intended course of action based on further inputs. But this is a view from within space and time. I see things progressing in a linear fashion: 1 to 2 to 3 and so on ad infinitum. But God is not bound by space and time. He already knew that Moses would intercede and already knew that He was not going to destroy the Israelites and He also knew that Moses is the one who needed the threat to hang over the Israelites so that Moses could intercede and be reminded of God’s character and the promises that God had made. In a few verses, Moses is going to be royally pissed with the Israelites and command a culling, but he will hike right back up the mountain and plead with God to forgive the remaining Israelites and to continue to lead them (vv 31-34).

What am I to do with these verses?

First, I need to realize that I am an obstinate person. I am inflexible and difficult to work with and God is patient with me and gracious to me and continues to shape me. I need to extend similar grace to others on whom God is working.

Second, I need to understand that God is a Father and will work with me where I am to get me where I need to be. He will sometimes make it seem as though He is going to punish for something when what He is really after is me interceding. Just as it looks to my daughter as if I am a cruel daddy who only wants to ruin her fun until she sees that my intention was to move her on to something better still, so, too, will my Father in Heaven sometimes seem to me to have changed until circumstances reach a resolution and I learn that He never changed, but circumstances did and so did I.

Third, and this is stretching things a bit, I need to realize that The Law that condemns is not meant, for me, as a cudgel with which to beat my fellow sinners about the head an neck, but rather as an invitation to intercede on others’ behalf and pray that God will lead them to repentance. The Israelites had just broken about half the commandments and still Moses intercedes for them. God will not forgive where there is no repentance and I should not expect it to be otherwise. But I can go before God on others’ behalf and pray. Moses prayed that God would blot out his (Moses’) name from His (God’s) book if God was unwilling to forgive the sin of the Israelites. Paul wrote that he could wish himself sent to eternal punishment if it would save the children of Israel. That is the heart that God is trying to foster in me and all of His children. That is the heart of Christ that was willing to die in our place; to take our judgment on Himself. And that is what God was after in telling Moses that He (God) was going to wipe out the Israelites. God was after the heart of Christ being formed in Moses. And was it ever. God wants to form that same heart in me.

Father, this is challenging. To be gracious and to keep things in perspective would be challenging enough, but to see that You want to form a heart in me that is so concerned for Your glory and so loving of people that I could genuinely want myself condemned if it meant saving others … that is overwhelming. Please keep my eyes on the next step; the road immediately before my feet. Please continue to work on me to make me gracious with others and to keep things in their right perspective. And, as You do so, please shape my heart into what You want it to be. I cannot promise to be still and always submissive to Your working — You know I am obstinate — but I will try. And I know You will succeed in making me what You want me to be.

Save (Hebrews 7:25)

Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Hebrews 7:25

Situated in the midst of an elaboration on how Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek and superior to the Levitical priesthood is this statement.

This verse begins with the word Therefore, which means that I need to look back to the last full thought immediately preceding. When I do, I find that the writer of Hebrews states that the Levitical priests existed in greater numbers because their mortality prevented them from continuing to minister as priests. The writer states that Jesus, on the other hand, holds His priesthood forever because He is not limited by mortality. So, it is because of Jesus’ eternally abiding priesthood that He is able the save to the uttermost.

The nest question I ask of the verse is who Jesus can thus save. Those who draw near to God through Him. This breaks the whole of humanity down into two camps: those who draw near through Christ and those who do not. Those who draw near through Christ are saved. Those who do not draw near through Christ are not saved. It does not matter if they approach God some other way, as God made an example of the priests who brought strange fire by destroying them on the spot. It does not matter if one tries to have recourse to The Law, because The Law has made nothing (and no one) perfect (v19). The only way to be saved is through Christ.

Father God, thank You for sending Christ to save me. Thank You for establishing a priesthood that could also be a king in recording Abraham’s interaction with Melchizedek. Please cause me to draw near to Christ that I might draw near to You as well. Jesus, please intercede on my behalf that I might be acceptable and be saved, not only from wrath, but also from my own sins and failures.

SOAP: 03 March 2014

And Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived.

Genesis 25:21

As I read this verse this morning, I was struck by how different the story is when Rebekah is barren versus when Rachel is barren. The Bible says simply that Isaac prayed for Rebekah. There is no account of arguments or chastisements; no record of Rebekah telling Isaac to give her children or she would die; no other woman in the house for Rebekah to be jealous of or fight with. The house of Isaac and Rebekah is very different from the house of Jacob and Rachel and Leah and their maids.

Regardless of any difference in the structure of the home, the man’s response is where I was struck. See, Isaac prays for his wife’s barrenness and she conceives. Isaac goes to God on behalf of his wife and her desires. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, will tell him to give her children lest she die and Jacob says that he’s not God, in essence dismissing her desire to have children as out of his control.

While there are many things which are out of my control and many of these are things my wife would like a particular outcome in, I cannot simply dismiss her desires if I am to be a good husband or have a happy home. I love my wife and want the very best for her. Since I do not always know what “the best” is, it then behooves me to take my limited understanding of “the best” to my God and present both my wife’s requests and my own to Him.

What all this rambly verbiage boils down to is this: I think this verse is dispensing indispensable marriage advice for husbands and that advice is that we husbands take our wives’ concerns to God. If my wife is feeling short-tempered and easily-angered then I need to be on my knees before God on her behalf. Not because I’m losing my own temper, but because part of what God’s Spirit gives to us is peace. When she feels unattractive or, as she has sometimes claimed, downright ugly, I should be in prayer. Not because she can’t be, but because I love her and want her to feel as beautiful as she is to me. When she’s losing it because our daughter is being a pill, I should be on my knees in prayer – preferably with our daughter in my arms so my wife has some down time. In all these things where my wife craves my support and needs the intervention of God, I can support best from my knees and can, from that same place, invite our God to intervene on her behalf.

For the sake of clarity, I am not some brow-beaten husband trying to make amends. I am an imperfect husband to an imperfect wife who just saw in God’s Word an invitation for me to intercede on behalf of my wife. Will she or I always receive our petitions? I certainly hope not. But He cannot answer a prayer I have not prayed.