SOAP Journal – 11 June 2018 (1 Chronicles 15-16)

The sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles thereon, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.

1 Chronicles 15:15

In chapters fifteen and sixteen, David made a successful second attempt to bring the Ark into Jerusalem. This go around, David did things the way God instructed they be done. The priests and Levites were gathered and consecrated and carried the Ark in the way that God had prescribed. There were no issues save one: David’s first wife, Michal, hated David’s exuberance and his disdain for appearances while he praised God as the Ark was brought into the city. Once the Ark was in Jerusalem, David assigned Levites to sing praises to God and an exemplar psalm is provided.

All of this drives home a simple message: Approach God in the way that He has prescribed. There are many people who claim that all ways lead to God. While they may, only one Way leads to the entrance gates of Heaven — Jesus Christ — all others lead to the Judgment Seat. The choice is mine.

There is a corollary to that message, though. The result of coming to God in the Way He has prescribed is joy. There was rejoicing over the Ark coming to Jerusalem. There was rejoicing over its presence in the city. There was rejoicing and celebration in general. The result of doing what God bids me do in the way He bids me do it is joy.

These chapters are also a proper progression from the chapter that preceded, wherein I am reminded to obey the will of God that I already know and seek God for the specifics. David had missed the will of God that he already knew when he tried to bring the Ark in the wrong way and had multiplied wives for himself — both wrong, as far as God is concerned. But David sought God for specifics when threatened. Perhaps it was in that time of addressing threats that David remembered that God had already supplied general guidance that should be obeyed.

Father, thank You for the regular reminders in Your Word that joy is the result of doing what You bid me do in the way You bid me do it. Please cement this truth in me that I might gladly do what You bid me do in the way You bid me do it.

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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.

SOAP Journal – 23 April 2018 (2 Kings 14:1-14)

In the second year of Joash son of Joahaz king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah became king.

2 Kings 14:1

Amaziah turns out to be one in a streak of good kings that rule over Judah. He is not perfect — the high places remained intact during his reign — but he is recorded as doing right in the sight of the LORD. He accomplishes three things that are noted specifically: (1) he executed the conspirators who killed his father, (2) he managed a military victory over Edom that resulted in reclaimed territory, and (3) he grew proud because of the victory over Edom and challenged the king of the northern kingdom which resulted in Amaziah being defeated and taken captive.

The first item is made more noteworthy by Amaziah being obedient to The Law and executing only the conspirators. Several others have been recorded as killing the conspirators and every living relative, but Amaziah sticks to punishing the guilty parties.

The second item is not as noteworthy as it could be. There are many kings who managed to effect a military victory or two. The king of Israel even responded to the king of Judah that he (Amaziah) should enjoy the pleasure that victory brings instead of spoiling for a fight.

The third item is a sobering reminder that victory in one arena does not guarantee victory in all arenas. Just because Amaziah was victorious over Edom did not make him victorious over the northern kingdom. The old Christian cliché that the battle belongs to the LORD comes from a verse wherein the one receiving the promise (Jehoshaphat) had been trying to live peacefully and trouble came to him (2 Chronicles 20:15). If I go around spoiling for a fight, then the fight does not belong to God, but me. It is when I stand for God that He stands for me.

The account boils down to these three things: obey God’s Law, listen to wise counsel, and do not take victory for granted.

Father, thank You for these reminders. May I be obedient to Your Law — the Law of Grace which bids me love You and love others. Please give me ears that are attentive to wise counsel, whatever its source. Please give me a peaceful spirit — one that seeks to live peaceably with others and is not spoiling for a fight.

SOAP Journal – 02 April 2018 (2 Kings 8:1-6)

When the king asked the woman, she related [it] to him. So the king appointed for her a certain officer, saying, “Restore all that was hers and all the produce of the field from the day that she left the land even until now.”

2 Kings 8:6

The woman to whom Elisha prophesied about a child and to whom God miraculously restored that same child through Elisha is told, by Elisha, that a famine was coming and that she should take her entire family and go stay in the land of the Philistines until it was over. She does as Elisha tells her and comes back at the end of the time the prophet specified. It happens that she appeals to the king to restore her land at the very moment that Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, was telling the king about the miraculous restoration of her son. The king wanted the story directly from her, she obliged, and the king appointed an official to sort out the matter of her home.

This account reminds me that God’s perfect timing in my life is often predicated on my obedience. Had the woman not gone away, then this entire encounter would not have happened. Had she stayed a shorter or longer period of time than Elisha specified, then this encounter would not have happened. Her complete obedience brought about the perfect result. Not only did she avoid suffering through a famine, but her land and the produce of it for the duration of her time staying in another country were returned to her. This account reminds me that those times are to be expected. The life of Christ chronicled in the gospels is rife with these moments of everything lining up to supply what Jesus needed in that moment or for things to happen in precisely the way that Christ said they would. In both the case of the Shunammite woman and the life of Christ, everything falling perfectly into place was predicated on obedience. It is the same for me.

Father, thank You for this reminder that You have appointments ordained for me and I must obey You in order to keep those appointments. I may not know them until they arrive and maybe not even then, but You have scheduled them into my life and my obedience to Your voice will enable me to keep those appointments.

SOAP Journal – 20 March 2018 (2 Kings 5:1-19)

Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you [to do some] great thing, would you not have done [it]? How much more [then], when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

2 Kings 5:13

The story of Naaman is important in The Bible for more than one reason.

First, it is one of the very few recorded instances of a leper being cleansed in Old Testament (OT). The only other that comes to mind is the case of Miriam (Numbers 12:9-15). Jesus cleanses lepers in the New Testament, but the OT has precious few instances of a leper being cleansed.

Second, this healing is of a non-Jew. Naaman was, in fact, a captain in the Aramean army.

Third, this miracle is referenced by Jesus (Luke 4:27).

What is said about Naaman explicitly is that he was a great man with his master, and highly respected … [he] was also a valiant warrior, [and] he was a leper (v. 1). I learn some things about him by what is implied, too. For example, he took captive a young Israelite girl and the girl waited on Naaman’s wife (v. 2). This captive is the one who says that Naaman should go see the prophet Elisha and be healed (v. 3). So I can infer that his household was run in such a way that the servants felt free to offer advice and cared about the well-being of the heads of the household. I also infer that he is a proud man. When he meets Elisha, the prophet tells Naaman, via messenger, to go wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman is initially offended and angry about this instruction, but is prevailed upon by his servants to do what the prophet says (vv. 8-14). Good counsel prevails and pride is defeated, because he humbles himself to do what the prophet said instead of insisting on his own way. I also see that Naaman is wise. When he is healed, he goes back to Elisha and confesses that the LORD is the only God. He also looks ahead to the times he knows are coming when the king he serves is going to order him (Naaman) to stand in a place of idol worship and Naaman asks to be pardoned. He does not plan to participate, but he will have to be present.

I am not a leper. Not physically. However, like everyone, I began my life as a spiritual leper. I was walking around with the sentence of death hanging over my soul. It was not a matter of if, but when I would pass from this world and my soul pass into eternal punishment. Like Naaman, we are all presented with a very simple task: wash and be clean. Naaman was told to wash in the Jordan. I am told to wash in the blood of Christ. Naaman’s washing cleansed his body and the resulting faith enlivened his soul. My washing in the blood of Christ gives life to my soul.

As I walk with God, He may tell me to do things. Like Naaman, I am wont to become offended when God commands a simple thing. It seems too easy and I can think of better ways to do that same thing. Let Naaman’s servants speak to me, too. If God had commanded some great thing, would I not have striven to rise to that challenge? How much more when God commands me to do some simple thing?

Father, thank You that Your commands are simple. Seldom easy. Often simple. Your commands require me to put away pride and to humbly do the thing You tell me. Please remind me that I feel stirred to rise to the great tasks — to slay the dragons and such — but feel offended by the small tasks — to make sure that my armor is in working order. The great task, I have learned, is impossible without the small, but still the pride within me rails. Please, as the hymn says, pour contempt on all my pride and bring me to the place where I can be washed and cleansed and live. Bring me to the place of simple obedience to simple instruction so my faith reigns in me and my pride is put to death.

SOAP Journal – 07 March 2018 (1 Kings 20)

Then a man of God came near and spoke to the king of Israel and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because the Arameans have said, “The LORD is a god of mountains, but He is not a god of valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’”

1 Kings 20:28

This chapter gives the account of two wars between Aram and the northern kingdom of Israel. In both instances, Ahab is told by a prophet of God that the battle will go in his favor. In both instances, the Israelites defeat superior numbers. After the second battle, Ahab makes a deal with the king of Aram and lets him go. It is at this point that a prophet brings word to Ahab that God intended the death of the king of Aram and that Ahab’s life will be taken in his place.

I note several things in this chapter.

First, God does not restrict His blessings to the righteous. Ahab was an evil king and still God spoke to him and gave him victory over his enemy. This is in line with the teaching of Jesus, Who said that God causes the sun to rise and the rains to fall on both the evil and the good; the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).

Second, God still speaks to those who have rejected Him. Ahab had done everything he could to make it clear that he wanted nothing to do with the LORD. Yet still the LORD speaks to Ahab through the prophets.

Third, even an evil man can listen to God when it is advantageous. In the book of Kings, I do not see Ahab seeking God or looking for His counsel (he does know where to find a prophet and seek God’s counsel when Jehoshaphat asks, but he does not seek on his own). But he listens and looks for specifics when a prophet shows up promising that God is going to give victory. Ahab hears that promise and starts asking questions: Who goes into battle? In what order? Who leads the charge (vv. 13-15)? Both the evil and the good recognize that the law of cause and effect does not apply only in the physical realm. Newton may have observed it happening to physical objects, but many cultures in many times have realized that every action has a reaction; every cause begets an effect; everything I do and say and think — no matter how seemingly inconsequential — causes something to happen.

Fourth and finally, even an evil man can be used by God. The Arameans thought that they would win the battle because their gods were more powerful than the God of the Israelites. Nevermind that the king of Israel was worshiping Baal and not the LORD. The Arameans believed that defeating Israel was their gods defeating the LORD. And God would not stand for that.

All of this amounts to a warning to me. It is possible to hear from God and be used by God and receive God’s blessing and even listen to what God says when I think it will benefit me and still not be a worshiper of the LORD. It is possible to see Him work in my life and not be His child. I may very well hear His voice and not heed it when it does not suit me. The ultimate test of my faith is this: am I working out my salvation by seeking to obey God when He speaks, even — and perhaps especially — when His instruction is difficult for me? Ahab was happy to listen and obey when he derived some benefit from it. That is not faith. That is self-interest. Do I listen and obey when the only benefit to be gained is the pleasure of God and His “Well done, good and faithful servant.”? If not, I need to examine myself and see whether or not I really am or ever was His child.

God, please search me. I know that I have struggled with things in my life. I struggle still. I know that I fall short. Please show me whether this is because I refuse to obey or because I am weak. Please show me whether I listen and seek to obey at all times or only when I see some benefit. Please reveal me to me. I will be Yours.

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.