SOAP Journal – 01 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 12:23-40)

All these, being men of war who could draw up in battle formation, came to Hebron with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest also of Israel were of one mind to make David king.

1 Chronicles 12:38

David’s journey from shepherd to king is marked by three distinct additions of people to his ranks. The first was the Mighty Men — the people from all walks of life and all cultures who joined themselves to David and his cause. The second was defectors from Saul’s kingdom — the people who knew that David had been anointed as king and was biding his time until God removed Saul from the throne. This third and last group is those who come out to make David king en masse. This event (2 Samuel 5) took place after Saul’s death and after the death of his son. This was a leaderless group of people coming to David.

And this third group adds a third group to those who come to Christ.

There are those who come to Jesus on His own merits and because of Who He is personally, just as David’s Mighty Men came to him.

There are those who come to Jesus because they see Him for what He is, just as the defectors came to David.

The Israelites who came to David in this passage had chosen one of Saul’s sons for their king, despite David having been anointed to ascend the throne of Israel after Saul. They had fought against David’s forces. He does not remind them of what they had done. He accepts them into his army and reunites the fractured pieces of the kingdom of Israel. David holds no grudge. Nor does Christ. There are those — many of us, in fact — who actively opposed Jesus’ lordship in both our own lives and the lives of others. Paul is an excellent example of this. He was violently opposed to the followers of Christ up until his own conversion. Paul came to Jesus, knowing that he (Paul) had actively and violently opposed Christ’s followers. Paul came, knowing that Jesus held no grudge, but only desired the reconciliation of Paul with the rest of those who believed.

All three groups of supporters were accepted by David and given places in his kingdom. All three groups of followers are accepted by Christ and given places in His kingdom. Let me accept those whom my Lord accepts and not remind them of when or how they came to our Lord. We are all aware of when and how we came to our Lord.

Father, thank You for accepting me. I do not deserve it. I could not have earned it. Still, You accept me as I offer my allegiance to You. Please stir up that fealty in me, that I might prove myself loyal by obedience and love for my brothers and sisters.

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SOAP Journal – 29 May 2018 (1 Chronicles 12:1-22)

For day by day [men] came to David to help him, until there was a great army like the army of God.

1 Chronicles 12:22

The account of David’s army began with his Mighty Men – a group of choice warriors who were David’s inner circle and some of the first to join with him. Afterward, The Bible turns its attention to those who defected from Saul’s army to join David’s. At the time, David’s “army” was little more than a company or a band, but they had proven to be a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. When the defectors added their strength to David’s company, still more battlefield exploits followed.

What is curious to me is that this second wave of joiners comes from among the Israelites. The first round of people to support David and his cause were the non-Israelites. As the time drew nearer for David to take the throne, more and more of the Israelites defected. In a bit of a twist, the defectors were actually supporting what God had said through Samuel and choosing David to be their leader. David had already been anointed king and David, good man that he was, tried to stay out of Saul’s way and let him complete his time as king. The defectors could see this and recognize that they would be considered traitors until David took the throne.

So, too, the disciples of Jesus Christ when He came on the scene. They could see plainly from the miracles of Christ and hear evidenced in His Words His divinity. They knew, as Peter stated, that Jesus is the Christ; the Son of the Living God. They were convinced that it was only a matter of time before Jesus took the throne of David. More, they were convinced that Jesus is the only One able to save. They must have known — and learned, if they were not already aware — that they would be seen as traitors and defectors in their own time. But they, like those who defected to David, were looking forward to a time when their King would sit on His throne and their allegiance to Him would be vindicated.

The same is still true of believers in many places today. It is often the case that believers must walk away from everything they have known and follow Christ. And it is a choice that is made knowing what the cost may be. It may be as cheap a cost as to lose a few friends. It may be that the cost is one’s own life.

To live Godly may cost me. It may be that people who might otherwise count me among their number will see me as a defector. It may be that I will be seen as an outsider. If I believe; if I am fully convinced that my allegiance to Christ will be vindicated, then none of this will move me. I will remain loyal to my King, come what may.

Father, thank You for the example of David and his men. Thank You for the record of Jesus’ disciples going after Him in a similar fashion. Thank You for those today who count the cost and walk after You. Please cause me to live out my conviction that Jesus is Who He claims to be — God incarnate. Please cause that to change me and the way I live so that I am known as one of Yours.

SOAP Journal – 19 March 2018 (2 Kings 4:38-44)

So he set before them, and they ate and had left over, according to the word of the LORD.

2 Kings 4:44

There are two miracles recorded in these verses, but only one of them stands out to me.

Verse 38 sets the stage by telling us that there was a famine in the land. The people were hungry. So Elisha told his servant to put on the large pot and boil some stew. One of the sons of the prophets went out to gather herbs to season the stew and saw some wild gourds (v. 39) which he gathered and sliced into the pot. The trouble was that this particular man’s botany was suspect and the gourd happened to be poisonous (v. 40). Elisha told them to bring some meal and toss it into the pot. They did as he instructed and the stew was no longer poisonous.

Some indeterminate time later, a man brings an offering of first fruits and gives it to Elisha. Elisha tells his servant to Give them to the people that they may eat (v. 42). His servant replied that twenty loaves of bread and ears of fresh grain were not enough for a hundred men. Elisha reiterated the instruction and added that the LORD said there would be leftovers.

And it is this second miracle that catches my attention. The miracle that Elisha participates in here is a foreshadowing of what Jesus will do later. On two different occasions, Jesus fed thousands with nothing more than a few loaves of bread and some fish. Here, Elisha feeds a hundred or more with twenty loaves of bread and some fresh grain. This is far from the only time that a prophet was part of a miracle that was later echoed and amplified by Jesus. In fact, those miracles that are echoed and amplified act as a connective tissue between Jesus and the prophets. The similarity between them helps me see that the same God is acting in both instances and the differences between them cause me to pause and reflect on why that difference might be there.

This leaves me with two thoughts.

One, God is able to supply my needs. He can even supply them when some well-intentioned people accidentally poison that provision. This caveat reminds me to look for the best intentions of people who are trying to help. They may mess up (we all do) and their mistake may be potentially catastrophic, but God can fix anything. Even death is not final for Him.

Two, the same power that was at work in the prophets — viz., God’s power — was at work in the life of Jesus. The same power that was at work in the life of Jesus is promised to every believer. That includes me. Do I see that power at work in my life?

Father, thank You for this connection between the prophets and Jesus. Thank You for this reminder that it is Your power and Your Spirit at work through all. Please work through me.

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 – 18 December 2017 (2 Samuel 20)

Then the woman wisely came to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they were dispersed from the city, each to his tent. Joab also returned to the king at Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 20:22

2 Samuel 20 is the account of the rebellion of Sheba the son of Bichri. After David is reinstalled as king, Sheba gets the idea into his head that the northern tribes should not follow David as king. And the northern tribes go along with it for a short while. David tries to clean up some of the mess left behind by Absalom, retiring, in a sense, the concubines that Absalom had intercourse with and telling Amasa to muster the troops and go after Sheba. Amasa takes longer than the time David had allotted and ends up meeting Joab on the road. Joab guts Amasa and continues on after Sheba. When the armies of Judah reach the city where Sheba is holed up — Abel Beth-Maacah — they set a siege. The city of Abel was a place where people would go for wisdom, or so the woman says who talks with Joab over the wall. The woman asks why Joab wants to destroy a city where wisdom is the rule and he replies that he is not there for the city, but for Sheba. The woman counsels the people of the city and Sheba’s head ends up thrown over the city walls.

There are several threads in this account and it would be impossible to do all of them justice in a single blog entry. My focus this morning is on Sheba. He is, when distilled down to basics, a rebel against the rightful, God-ordained king. The Israelites had anointed Absalom as their king, but God never said that He approved the choice. So David was still the man God chose for the job. And this leads to how I see this being applicable to me.

There are many things in life that want to compete with Christ for the throne of my life. The world supplies many and more distractions — entertainments, pass-times, hobbies, clubs, and so on — that all lay claim to time in my life. And there is nothing inherently wrong with spending time in these, so long as Jesus remains the ruler of my life. The sin that dwells in me has lusts and desires aplenty that seek to ensnare and make me their subject. So long as Jesus is on the throne of my life, those desires that have a right and proper fulfillment will find themselves fulfilled in due time. Life is full of Shebas. But there is only one Christ. There are many pretenders to the throne of my heart and mind and life, but only One King anointed by God. Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, as Paul wrote. Let me put the right King on the throne of my life by doing the things He commands. He commands that I love God with all that is in me. Let me do so to the best of my ability. He commands that I love others as I love myself. Let me but step out in faith and attempt it and see what resources my King Jesus puts at my disposal to obey His command. Long experience has taught me that all of the Shebas in my life require no power for me to obey them, it is in my rebellious nature to follow the usurpers wherever they crop up. Let me submit, instead, to the Rightful King and see the power that delivers the head of Sheba into His possession.

Father, thank You for showing me how this passage applies to me. I was confused, but waited on You and I now understand how You want me to apply this lesson to my life. Thank You for speaking and for making me able to hear when You did. Please give me what is needful to follow-through on this and show me how to deliver the heads of all the pretenders to Your throne into Your hands.

SOAP Journal – 12 December 2017 (2 Samuel 19:8-43)

“For all my father’s household was nothing but dead men before my lord the king; yet you set your servant among those who ate at your own table. What right do I have yet that I should cry out anymore to the king?”

2 Samuel 19:28

With Absalom defeated, David is brought back into Jerusalem as Israel’s king. It is not as simple as David saddling up a donkey and heading home, but it is far less complicated than it might have been. As David returns home, he interacts with a couple people.

Shimei, the man who cursed David and threw rocks at him as he left, now shows up with a thousand men of Benjamin to bring David’s household across the Jordan (vv 16-23). The man is penitent, asking David’s forgiveness and receiving it.

Next, David meets Mephibosheth (vv 24-30) whom David was grieved not to see leave with him. Mephibosheth claims that his servant — Ziba, who showed up with Shimei to help bring David’s household across the Jordan (v 17) — had deceived him and taken off before Mephibosheth could get ready to go with David. Mephibosheth has on him all the marks of a man who has mourned the departure of his king since the day of hat departure (v 24). The interaction includes something of the flavor of Solomon’s future dealings with people seeking justice, as if the boy observed this moment in his father’s life and marked it as worthy of emulation.

There are others and this summary would wax as long as the chapter itself if all of the interactions were brought forward.

What strikes me about this event is the similarity I feel it has with the return of Christ. Both kings return to their throne after the defeat of a usurper and pretender. Both kings come with a retinue. Both kings are taking back a throne that is rightfully theirs. Both kings dispense mercy after the judgment has been meted out. The events feel similar, but not the precisely the same.

This tells me that I should be like Shimei and Mephibosheth. Like Shimei, I should repent of the things I have done to offend my King and should be looking for ways to serve. Like Mephibosheth, I should mourn the absence of my King and long for His return. Let me long for my King’s return and be ready and able to serve Him when He does.

Father, thank You for this account that reminds me that Jesus — Your Son and my King — will return. Let me be numbered among the loyalists and those who have repented of their old ways to be ready to serve the King and be a part of His Kingdom.