SOAP Journal – 11 March 2019 (Psalm 9)

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalm 9:10

I normally try to take a psalm in its entirety, but this verse continued to stand out to me amidst the rest of the psalm. This is not to say that this is not the theme verse for the entire psalm — it may very well be — but that I have struggled to string together the whole of the psalm into a single, coherent thought process. David’s poetic styling is not always something I can parse.

David asserts that those who know [God’s] name will put their trust in [Him]. David, being such a person, would know. David knew God’s name and had been zealous for it from his youth. It was in God’s name that David took his stand against Goliath. David had the type of personal relationship with God that God desires to have with everyone. And David had put his trust in God throughout his life. David had seen God execute judgment for the peoples (v. 8) and maintain [David’s] just cause (v. 4). These actions contributed to God’s name, God’s reputation. If I know God’s reputation, then the reasonable response is to put my trust in Him.

David adds another reason to his preceding reason. If God’s name were not enough reason to trust Him, David adds that [God has] not forsaken those who seek [Him]. One of the most compelling aspects of God’s name is His faithfulness. Jesus says that anyone who comes to Him He will in no wise cast out (John 6:37). And Paul writes to Timothy that God remains faithful to us even if we are faithless to Him (2 Timothy 2:13). God’s faithfulness is an often remarked on and truly compelling part of His name. And David adds it as a reason to put my trust in God.

I must learn to trust God more. I know His name and I have sought Him. Let me learn more about Him and seek Him still more.

Father, thank You that You have made Yourself known so that Your name is glorious. Thank You that You desire more than just people who know of You. Thank You that You want relationship; You want each one to know You personally. Please draw me into the place where I seek You more diligently and look to know and be known by You.

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SOAP Journal – 20 September 2017 (1 Samuel 18:10-30)

David was prospering in all his ways for the LORD [was] with him.

1 Samuel 18:14

At this point in Saul’s reign, things are actually good. Saul worries that God is with David and that bad things will happen if David is around Saul too much — after all, Saul did try to pin David to the wall with a spear … twice (v. 11) — so Saul appointed David a commander in the army.

As it turned out, appointing David a military commander served to put him more in the public eye and to increase his fame, because God continues to be with him. This also means, by extension, that Israel’s armies are victorious in their battles and that Saul appears to be a brilliant ruler. David becomes a household name in Israel and Judah (northern and southern parts of the kingdom) and does well on the battlefield.

Saul tries, twice, to make David his son-in-law. This is not, however, altruistic in motive. In both instances, Saul thinks that the hand of the Philistines may be against [David] (v. 17, 21) if David marries one of Saul’s daughters. When Saul offers his younger daughter, Michal, to David, Saul adds that she may become a snare to him (v. 21). There are no good motives lurking anywhere in all of this. The one positive is that Michal loved David, so she would actually get what she wanted if David married her. And marry her he does.

This morning’s verse is a reminder to me. It is tempting to look at the words and see only David’s military success or his marrying the king’s daughter. But prospering in all his ways means all his ways, including in his walk with God. Things can be going well for me in most areas of my life and I can be tempted to think that God is blessing me. But it could just as easily be a feint by the enemy trying to draw me out into dangerous waters. The only way to differentiate, that I can think of, is to look at my walk with God. Am I growing closer to God? Is my devotional time increasing in intimacy with God? Do I find myself more frequently victorious in the spiritual battles that come my way? Do I find myself resorting first to prayer and The Bible when things get difficult or confusing? If my answers are uniformly “Yes.”, then there is a good chance that the other areas of my life in which I am doing well are blessings from God. If the answer is “No.”, then I might want to take a serious look at where the pursuit of those material benefits is leading me.

Sun Tzu, one of the most famous tactical writers in history, said (I paraphrase) that the victorious general must seem like he is about to lose when he is ready to secure his complete victory. One’s enemy must always think he is secure and winning until the moment he loses. The same is true of my spiritual enemy. He will employ tactics like this (because they are sound strategy) and lead me to think that everything is awesome because of the material blessings on my life — good pay, a comfy house, favor at work with my boss and colleagues. There is nothing inherently wrong with those things, but they undermine my walk with God if I have done things that damage my relationship with God in order to get to that place.

What is the application? Only what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Father, thank You for this reminder that material blessing is not an indicator of a good walk with You or of a healthy relationship with You. Please keep me mindful of the pitfalls around me. There seems to be good favor at work and things moving in a mostly positive direction, but things are challenging in other areas of life. Please give me insight to know if there is something wrong that needs to be addressed or if this is just a difficult time.

Followers (Matthew 4:25)

And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and beyond the Jordan.

Matthew 4:25

Something that I noticed about this verse as I read over it this morning is that it said multitudes followed Him. It does not say that multitudes became His disciples or that multitudes lived out His preaching and teaching, but that multitudes followed Him.

In the modern era, we have social media, which is neither truly social nor truly media, and the ability for people to follow us. We can follow people on Twitter and Instragram and “friend” them on Facebook and so on.

This is not so different from what was going on with Jesus and these multitudes. Many people were following Him — watching what He did and maybe commenting on it, but not really taking any sort of concrete action; never forming a relationship with Him. The disciples, by contrast, were in the beginning stages of forming their relationship with Jesus. Sometimes, we follow businesses on social media in order to get something — discounts, contests, what-have-you — and we parallel what this crowd did with Jesus. He was curing illness — mental and physical — and doing some majorly Good Things. And that is why some of the people in the crowd were there: to get something or to say they knew Him when or to witness the miraculous.

Where am I this morning? Am I walking in the shoes of the disciples — working on a relationship with Jesus, at whatever stage it may be — or am I with the crowd — just following in order to get something or see something? The answer is about eternity. Relationship is what He requires for me to enter into His rest. I never knew you is arguably the most heartbreaking phrase ever to fall from the lips of Christ in scripture. It certainly will be when it is uttered at the judgment seat. Am I a follower or a disciple? Have I “friended” Jesus or am I His friend?

Relationship (Jeremiah 7:22-23)

“For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’”

Jeremiah 7:22-23

There is a common misconception about how God wants to relate to humankind. So often, God is perceived as a giver of rules; a speaker of “Do”s and “Do Not”s. While the Ten Commandments are definitively in The Bible and while there are extensive books of rules and regulations, these verses serve as a reminder that God did not begin with rules, He began by offering relationship.

This can be seen as far back as Eden, where God walked in the cool of the day to spend time with the first man and woman. It is also seen in Enoch, who walked with God. There is no mention made of offering sacrifices or of following some prescribed set of rules and regulations, only the companionable action of walking with God. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel, even on down to Moses. And it was in the time of Moses that God spoke the words of which He reminds Israel (the nation, not the individual) in these verses.

As with the Father, so with the Son. Jesus extended offers of relationship repeatedly. He told all who are weary and heavily burdened to come to Him and He would give them rest. He followed that up with telling us to take His yoke. Animals that are yoked together walk together; work together. Jesus offers not only to walk with us and share the load of our lives, but to also make us a part of His work. The yoke works both ways. Not only is His strength available for the things that I must do, but I am tied into the things which He is doing.

I do not want to make it sound as if there are no rules. There absolutely are. But it is not rules that God offers to all who would come. It is a relationship with Himself. Rules are helpful. Relationship is so much more. Rules allow us to get into the neighborhood of God. Relationship allows us to snuggle in close to our Father.

Rules are good. Relationship is better. What God wants is best: a relationship that is so intimate that we know His heart on matters without Him saying anything. My wife and I have been married for five years this summer. It is not a long time, but there are things that we no longer need discuss, because we know one another’s heart on the matter. We might still touch base (and often do); verify that we are correct in our surmise, but most often the surmise is correct and the intimacy of relationship begets an intuitive understanding of one another. That level of intimacy is what God wants for my relationship with Him.

God wants relationship. He wants to be my friend as well as my God and my King and my Savior. Will I let Him get that close? Will I get that close to Him? The choice is mine.

Reason Together (Isaiah 1:18)

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.

Isaiah 1:18

In context, God supplies this invitation to Israel while they are in rebellion against Him. Though they are committing every kind of wrong imaginable, He invites them to sit down and reason together with Him. Jesus says that He did did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, so there is a great deal of consistency in the invitations.

I felt compelled to look up the verb tenses and moods and such, because I am that kind of word nerd, and found a couple of things to be very interesting.

First, the invitation to come is in the imperative. This is not so much a request as a command. It is comparable to a parent with a rebellious child saying that they need to talk. It is not an invitation so much as a command to park it and get to chatting. There are those who would chafe at God striking such a tone, but He frames His relationship with such as are His in the context of Father and child. So the tone is appropriate. Moreover, the verse is not addressed to the pagans and non-Israelites, it is addressed to the Israelites; God’s chosen people.

Second, the invitation to reason together is in the imperfect which means that it can be understood as an ongoing action. God is not saying that He expects Israel to have a sit down with Him one time and then everything will be copacetic thenceforward. What He is saying is that He expects this to be an ongoing conversation; a running dialog between Him and those He has chosen. In short, He is inviting them to a relationship, not a religion.

Great. This verse is handed down to Israel. What is that to me? Rather a lot, actually. Malachi will later record God’s statement that He does not change. If God does not change, then His offer to Israel is open to all who choose to follow Him. He commands them to sit and invites them to talk. He does the same for the Christian. Jesus told His disciples to get to a secret place and talk with the Father. Jesus commands the believer to do what God here commands Israel to do: Sit down and reason with God.

Why sit and chat with God? What good does it do? Quite a bit. God makes a promise in this verse. He promises that my sins, though they be like scarlet and red as crimson, will be white as snow and like the whitest wool. His promise is cleansing. More promises follow in the verses after this — promises of blessing to the obedient and discipline to the disobedient — and those promises, in their generalized phrasing, still hold true to the Christian.

Let me sit and reason together with God this and every morning. As I do so, I will gain a relationship with Him, understanding of His Word, and other blessings to be named by God at a later date.

A Relationship of Trust (Job 13:15)

Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.

Job 13:15

There are two statements made here by Job. The first is excellent. The second not so much.

Job’s assertion that he will hope in God even if God slays him is a phenomenal declaration of faith. I do not know how many believers today can say the same thing and be completely honest. Job is in a place where death would be welcome. He lost everything he had — all family (except his lovely wife) and wealth — and his health has declined to the point where he is scraping boils with fragments of pottery that are all that’s left of his vast wealth. When something like this happened in American history, people threw themselves from windows. Wednesday, I think, was the anniversary of the 1929 stock market crash. Job, rather than end it all, perseveres. He’s not at 100%, but no one would be. Can I make this statement and be speaking truth? I do not think so. But I should. I should be able to say that circumstance is irrelevant to whether or not I trust God. This is something that needs to be addressed in me.

Job’s second statement is not so good. He says that he will argue his ways before God. Job had lived a righteous life, so much so that God was bragging about what a righteous dude Job was. If anyone had grounds to argue his ways, it was probably Job. In a preceding chapter, Job said that no one can dispute with God (Job 9:3). When he said that, he was correct. Who are we to think that we will stand before the Almighty and shake our fist or rage against what we perceive to be injustice? We will do no such thing. Faced with Almighty God, we will be unable to stand at all. As for shaking our fist or leveling charges against Him, I doubt it. There will be some who will plead; who will ask about the great things that they did in God’s name. Knowledge of Him is not enough. Relationship with Him is what is needful.

I need to learn to trust. My relationship with God will be hobbled until I do. Until I can say with Job that I will trust God even if He takes my life, I am not where I need to be.

Misconceptions (Job 4:7)

Remember now, who [ever] perished being innocent?
Or where were the upright destroyed?

Job 4:7

The answers to both of these questions are not what the asker expected them to be. The innocent perish all the time. There are stillbirths, children are killed in wars, people who did not commit a crime are convicted and the sentence carried out. The upright are also destroyed all the time. In point of fact, the upright are killed so frequently that a verse in The Bible speaks of how the righteous are, for the sake of God and their testimony, like sheep to be slaughtered. This verse is spoken once and quoted elsewhere. Eliphaz needed better information.

Which brings me to what I caught as I read this. There are an awful lot of misconceptions about God and about how things work. I mean, not too long ago, I fumbled around trying to figure out how much of the OT Law (the Ten Commandments are universal, so that was never in question) applied to the modern believer. I thought one thing and then another. It wasn’t until I was talking with one of my brothers (brother-in-law and fellow believer) that it occurred to me that The Bible had already answered the question. Prior to that epiphany; that moment that I finally heard what God has to say on the matter, I had all sorts of misconceptions about what applied and why. Since there’s a scriptural backing for where I draw the line now and —possibly more importantly —that scriptural backing is, in context, an answer to the very question I was considering, I can safely conclude that I have been disabused of that particular misconception. But I’m sure I have others. Many others. And that is both the danger and the intrigue of pursuing a relationship with infinite God. He. Is. Infinite. I’m not. As I seek to know Him and grow close to Him, new things will become apparent. Before marrying my wife, I did not really understand how deeply and abidingly apathetic she is about whether or not the toothpaste tube is squeezed from the bottom or not. And that is just one of a myriad of things I learned when our relationship went from “dating” to “married.” In between, there was this phase known as “engaged” which revealed still other things about my wife and who she is to me (I’m sure these phases have done the same for her). And that’s kind of the point. In any relationship, misconceptions about the other are inevitable. We know enough to love that one and fill in the blanks with things that make us love them more. The reality may not jive.

How I deal with being disabused of my misconceptions is the application to this. Will I become disillusioned; shocked that the God I love is different than I thought Him to be? Or will I accept that God is Who God is and incorporate the new piece into the whole of the God I know and love? At the end of the book of Job, Eliphaz will get a verbal smackdown from God for not speaking rightly about God as Job does. Job will say a fair few foolish things before the book is done, but God says that Job speaks rightly about God. Job knows God and incorporates the new information into the whole. Just as a loving husband does with his wife. Just as a loving parent does with a child. Just as a loving child — a more apt comparison — does with their parents. I’ve learned things about my parents that I label TMI (too much information). But those things are part and parcel of my parents. I do not love them any the less for being more or other than what I thought as a child. I simply add that new (to me, they’ve known it for years) information. I need to be the same with God. When one of my misconceptions is destroyed, I need to thank God for helping me know Him better and add that new (to me) piece to the puzzle that is God.

One last note before I close up, this morning. C.S. Lewis wrote, in The Four Loves, that a person’s friends bring out new facets of that person. So, my wife brings out certain facets of me. My daughter brings out others. My sister, still others. So it goes until we realize that getting together all of these people who know me in different capacities and relationships will show things about me that may seem contradictory or may simply furnish those who know me with a more complete picture. In either event, all of those facets are me. Getting together with other believers and sharing what God has shown us of Himself is a way to begin destroying the misconceptions that plague us all. When I sit and chat with my brothers-in-law about God, we learn about God and about each other by comparing notes about the God we love. Our understanding of Him is richer for the time. A side application is this: I need to spend time comparing notes with other believers. Each of our relationship with God will be richer for it.