SOAP Journal – 29 January 2018 (1 Kings 9:1-9)

The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.”

1 Kings 9:3

After Solomon has finished all his activity — 20 years’ worth of building projects — God came to chat with him during a quiet moment. God wanted to let Solomon knows that He had heard Solomon’s prayer and that the temple would indeed be a holy place and one that God kept a close watch on. God also reaffirms His promise to David by extending the same offer to Solomon: Follow God wholeheartedly and He will establish your throne.

There is something fascinating to me in God’s offer to establish Solomon’s throne. I find myself looking at God’s Law and how the king was instructed to comport himself under that Law and find that a king following that Law would rule by love. This is not to say that he necessarily would love his subjects — though that would certainly be true — but to say that Machiavelli’s method of rule by love would come into play. Any ruler who ruled according to God’s Law would be beloved by the people. God’s Law forbade amassing wealth and unnecessary accoutrements and wives and a whole host of other things. The king, under God’s Law, was supposed to simply be a man who ruled other men. That was it.

But God (one of my favorite phrases in The Bible) had more in mind that merely Solomon’s temporal throne. God was looking down the corridors of future history and telling Solomon that he could be a part of the story of the Messiah if he chose to walk with God. And God already knew that Solomon wanted to be a part of that story

God is not handing out earthly thrones to all and sundry, but He does still extend the offer to be a part of the story of the Messiah. Jesus’ invitation was to all. Let all who are weary and heavy-laden come. John’s gospel says that whoever believes in the Son has everlasting life and goes on to say that the intent of Christ’s coming was that the world might be saved through Him.

God extends to me and everyone else to invitation to be a part of the story of the Messiah. Instead of being His forebears, we can be His brethren by redemption. And the conditions are the same. If I want to be a part of that story, then I must  walk before [God] … in integrity of heart and uprightness. I must come to God to be redeemed so that I can walk in the righteousness of Christ and I must do so with my whole heart.

Father, thank You that the conditions of the promise do not change. It has been and ever shall be that You desire those who would come to You to do so with our whole heart. Please search me and know me and see if my heart is divided. If it is, please tear down the walls I have built up so that I follow with my whole heart. Please do not allow me to compartmentalize You, but instead take over all of me.


SOAP Journal – 13 June 2017 (Deuteronomy 32:43)

Rejoice, O nations, [with] His people; / For He will avenge the blood of His servants, / And will render vengeance on His adversaries, / And will atone for His land [and] His people.

Deuteronomy 32:43

The last part of the song that Moses teaches to the Israelites before his death caught my eye this morning. The song, as a whole, is an interesting thing. It is a mixture of prophecy about the impending faithlessness of the Israelites and winds its way around to this morning’s verse.

In these words, I see an early promise of the sacrifice of the Messiah. To make sense of it, though, I had to break it into three promises divided by the conjunction and. 

The verse begins with an invitation to the nations, to rejoice … [with] His people. The square brackets around with indicate that it was added by the translators. But this is the same song in which God has promised to make them jealous with [those who] are not a people and provoke them to anger with a foolish nation (v 21). It is possible that the phrase could be understood as inviting the nations; His people to rejoice.

The first part that caught my attention is the promise to atone for His land [and] His people. This is precisely what happened at the cross. Jesus made atonement by His death. And the law of the kinsman redeemer says that the One Who redeems the person also receives that person’s land inheritance. Back in Genesis, God gave dominion of the whole Earth to Adam, hence to people. It would seem that when people are redeemed, the Earth over which we were given dominion comes along for the ride. The word used for people here can also be used in the figurative to mean flock. And Jesus is my Good Shepherd.

But there is another promise: the promise of vengeance. The verse says that God will avenge the blood of His servants and will render vengeance on His adversaries. Almost this same phrasing is used in Revelation when those who are under the altar cry out to God, saying How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Revelation 6:10) Many of the atrocities committed against those who place their faith in God seem to have gone unanswered throughout history, but God has promised that vengeance is coming.

I think, though, that the order is deliberate. The fulfillment of these promises will happen  and has happened in the opposite order. Redemption is already available and vengeance has not yet come. But placing them in the order of (1) vengeance and (2) redemption is a reminder that all of us deserve the vengeance of God to be visited on us, but we can all be redeemed and preserved from that judgment.

Let me seek God’s judgment insofar as it is the end of suffering. Let me seek to see people redeemed, that God’s vengeance is taken on as few people as possible.

Thank You, Father, for redemption; for a way to not be waiting for Your vengeance to be visited on me. Please make my heart such as desires to see all redeemed and to see Your vengeance rendered only on those angels that rebelled.

SOAP Journal – 2 March 2017 (Leviticus 25:24)

Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land.

Leviticus 25:24

Tucked away in Leviticus are laws that I am quite sure critics of The Bible are ready to trot out and be offended by. Chapter 25 includes laws governing such things as debt slavery, the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee, and selling property in a city and in the country. Woven through all of the laws in this chapter is this common thread: Who owns what.

There are two basic owners mentioned in the chapter: God and anyone else. When God speaks of the Israelites, He says that they are His servants (v 42). When God speaks of the land, He lets the Israelites know that it is His and that they are just passing through (v 23). Ultimately, as the psalmist says, the earth is the LORD’s and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). But Leviticus is addressed primarily to the Israelites, so the focus is a bit different.

This morning’s verse is one of my favorite commands issued by the Owner of the Earth. God commands that every piece of … property sold must also have a redemption price provided. The chapter gives specifics. The price of sale was calculated from the anticipated average annual crop yield from date of sale to the Year of Jubilee. To buy the land back; to redeem it required the same calculation. Regardless of whether or not the original owner redeemed it, the land reverted to its original owner in the Year of Jubilee, thus ensuring that no Israelite would be permanently homeless.

More, this concept of redemption and the fact that it was required that a redemption price be set for every piece of property sold becomes very interesting for me as a believer when I get to the New Testament (NT) and Jesus speaks of redeeming me. It is actually pretty interesting when Job, speaking before this law was handed down to the Israelites, said that he know that his Redeemer lived (Job 19:25). Knowing that this law is present makes so much of the language in the NT make sense.

The application for me is this: I have been redeemed which means that I was bought with a calculated price. That price was the life and blood of Jesus Christ. Like the Israelite who was redeemed, I am the possession of God. His servant. Let me conduct myself accordingly.

Thank You, Father, for redeeming me. Thank You that You calculated the price and were willing to pay it. Please continue to work on and in me to make me a worthwhile servant to You.

One Standard (Leviticus 24:22)

There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 24:22

The word “standard”, or so the foot notes tell me, could literally be rendered “judgment.” It makes me wonder if the word “judgment” refers to a system of judgment or the act of judging. The potential application of this verse and the full scope of its meaning change based on that bit of detail.

There is one standard. Translated this way, the verse tells me that God’s perfection is the only standard against which any other so-called “perfection” can be measured. Every action of mine, every thought, every intent is measured against that single standard of perfection and found wanting. Just like the hand wrote on the wall in Daniel 5:37. But the standard goes beyond that. Ultimately, everyone will be judged by God’s standard of righteousness and perfection. Ultimately, everyone will be judged against Him. And we will all be found wanting, because not a single one of us is even remotely righteous. This whole idea plays into the translation of “judgment” that makes it a system of judgment; a legal code; a Law. There’s only one way to judge a person’s perfection or lack thereof, and that is against God’s perfection. The ancient Egyptians had a god—Osiris, I think—who weighed a man’s soul on one side of the balance and a feather on the other. Those whose souls were lighter than the feather were allowed entry into paradise. Those whose souls were heavier were denied entry. If it were God doing the weighing, He would put His own righteousness on one side and the righteousness of every person, one by one, on the other. We would all be found insufficient.

There is one judgment. The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is appointed unto men to die once and for judgment to follow after that. One judgment. That’s it. For the believer, The Bible teaches that the judgment waiting is of what we did with the resources God gave us: time, abilities, opportunities, and so forth. We will give an accounting of how we invested (or not) those resources (not that God doesn’t already know) and will be rewarded (or not) according to how we used what was placed at our disposal. The Bible teaches that the judgment awaiting the unbeliever is of what they did with the only resource that mattered: Jesus. For the Christian, our choice was to follow Him (with varying degrees of success) and to accept that our righteousness was insufficient to get us into Heaven. So we accept the gift offered and the Father makes Him Who knew no sin (Jesus) to be sin for us so that we can become the righteousness of God in Him. For the unbeliever, they have staked their future in some other idea. They may have decided that their own “good” deeds would be sufficient to get them into Heaven. They may have believed that no “loving God” would ever condemn a soul to Hell for something as (it seems to them) trivial as not trusting in Christ — after all, there are so many religions and all of them claim to be true and and and and. The unbeliever may simply have not believed in any afterlife at all and reasoned that there was no judgment to face. Whatever the idea the unbeliever has trusted, it leads to the standard; the system of judgment brought by the Law.

Recently (yesterday, I think) I wrote that I need to stop applying God’s Laws to those who are not God’s people. That still holds true. I am not the Judge, so it is not mine to apply Law or not. It is mine to obey. God, on the other hand, is the Judge and He has only one Law by which to judge humankind. The escape clause written into His Law is Jesus. Jesus is able, because He is a blood relative (human), to redeem me and every other person who wants to be redeemed. But redemption is voluntary. The book of Ruth puts this on display. The one to be redeemed must ask the Redeemer to redeem. I feel like I should be saying, “Yo, dawg, I heard you like redemption. So I’ll talk about the Redeemer Who redeems all who want to be redeemed.” Anyway. Redemption is voluntary. The escape clause requires an action on my part: I must ask for it. But that’s the end of my involvement in the process. If we read Ruth, we find out that Ruth asked Boaz to redeem and Boaz did the rest. We are all Ruth and Jesus is our Boaz. Something about Ruth compelled Boaz. Maybe it was her poverty or her weakness or the simple fact that she asked him (a guy who, it sounds like, was not the most attractive or youngest of the potentials) to redeem. Jesus’ call to take up our cross and follow Him is not attractive and He offers no Earthly fame or glory for doing so. What He offers is redemption and Himself — both of which are far superior to any Earthly fame or glory.

What’s my takeaway? How do I apply this? First, I need to remember that there is one standard: God’s. That’s it. Second, I need to remember that I am not the Judge Who applies that standard. But I can (and probably should) be the guy walking out of the courtroom advising the next case in to “Take the deal.” Third, I need to remember that my involvement in my redemption went as far as asking to be redeemed. After that, Jesus took over and made everything happen. And that knowledge should (and does, as I reflect on it) humble me.