SOAP – 29 April 2019 (Psalm 21)

For the king trusts in the LORD,
And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken.

Psalm 21:7

I have read and re-read this psalm and was not until this weekend that the final piece in my thinking fall into place.

The first time I read through this psalm, I very clearly saw David writing about himself. He is the king from whom God has not withheld the request of his lips and whom God has met with blessings. David had seen God defeat those who made themselves His (God’s) enemies time and again. And the psalm made sense. But it felt like I was missing something.

A reading or three later, I could see that this psalm might also apply to Jesus. Jesus is the King Who received length of days forever and ever. All that this psalm says of David can be commuted to Jesus. And the psalm made sense. But that did not give me any application.

It was over the weekend that it occurred to me that the New Testament refers to believers as both priests and kings. And I looked at the psalm again, wondering if the things written could apply to me as a believer. I can be glad in God’s strength and rejoice in His salvation. And He has promised that He will give me my heart’s desire when my heart is right with Him. He has met me with blessings of good things and Jesus explicitly said that He came that I might have life in abundance. The only glory I really have is God’s salvation and God does want to make me most blessed and to give me joy in His presence.

Item by item, it can all be applied to the believer here and now. We are kings in God’s kingdom. This psalm is not only about David and Jesus, but about all of God’s kings.

And the application fell into place.

Let me be glad in God’s strength and rejoice in His salvation. When he gives me the strength to overcome some trial or temptation, I should be glad and rejoice in Him.

Let me receive from Him the blessings of good things and the abundant life He wants to give me.

Let me trust in Him and stand firm in His mercy — which is how lovingkindness is sometimes translated.

And let me remember that God’s enemies will not stand. He will be victorious over them. There is no “if” to that, only “when.”

Father, thank You for the blessings You have already poured into my life. I have loving family, health, an occupation that You use to supply my family’s needs, food on the table, clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and the salvation You freely offered to me — truly I am blessed with good things. Please give me the wisdom to not only know the things Your Word says, but to be able to live them out. Please teach me how to be glad in Your strength and rejoice in Your salvation by teaching me to walk in Your strength through the trials of life and seeing You deliver me through them. Please teach me how to stand firm in Your mercy, not allowing myself to remain under the condemnation that my enemy and my flesh would put me under, but rising after I fall to stand again in Your mercy. Thank You that these are all things I am able to do through Your salvation, Your strength, and Your power.

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SOAP Journal – 11 December 2017 (2 Samuel 18:19-19:7)

5 Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, 6 by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.”

2 Samuel 19:5-6

After Absalom’s defeat and death at the hands of Joab, David receives the news of God’s deliverance from two messengers — a Cushite and Ahimaaz the son of Zadok the priest. Ahimaaz is the one who left later, but arrives first and brings news only of the defeat of Absalom’s forces. The Cushite arrives second and tells David that Absalom is dead. David hears the news of his son’s death and responds as a father who has lost a son: he is grief-stricken. Joab hears about it and rebukes David, expecting him to respond as a king who has heard that his enemy has been put down and that the kingdom can be at peace again.

Something that I found curious in reading this is that David asked Ahimaaz directly about Absalom’s well being and Ahimaaz deflected the question — The king said, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant, and your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what [it was].” (18:29). This is curious to me, because Joab told Ahimaaz in no uncertain terms that Absalom was dead — But Joab said to him, “You are not the man to carry news this day, but you shall carry news another day; however, you shall carry no news today because the king’s son is dead.” (18:20). There is in this an element of what I perceive to be Joab’s complete inability to understand people. Rather than send someone who perceives that David is both a king and a father, Joab wants to send someone who sees only the king. If the Cushite kingdom was anything like many of the ancient kingdoms for which there are records, then their kings may very well have been ready and willing to kill any upstart son who thought to take the throne from his father. Many kings in history have had just such an attitude. That was not David’s heart. David was not a good father, if the behavior of his children is taken as a litmus. But he loved his children. Ahimaaz appears to have been aware of this and wanted to let David celebrate the victory of his soldiers before having to mourn the death of his son. The Cushite had no such comprehension of the king — whether due to cultural differences or distance from the king (Ahimaaz was the son of the high priest and saw David in moments when he did not have to be a king or general) or some other factor, the understanding was not there.

Joab was right to rebuke David for mourning openly for his son in the sight of those who had just won victory on his behalf. These are the same people who had told David before the battle that he was worth ten thousand of them (18:3). The people had valued David greatly and he should have reciprocated. Instead, he appeared to place a higher value on their enemy than on those who had secured victory and returned the kingdom to David’s rule.

How to apply this?

First, the right person for the right job. Joab thought that Ahimaaz was the wrong person for carrying the news of the victory, when it appears that he would have more deftly handled the situation and allowed the victors to celebrate and the king to mourn all in their proper time.

Second, love rightly. Jesus says that anyone who loves parents or child more than they love Him is not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37). I need to love the right people and in the right proportion. David was right to love his son, but not to prefer his son over those who had put their lives on the line to protect David and the rest of his family and his kingdom.

Father in Heaven, thank You for this reminder that love is right and proper and has its right and proper application and proportion. Too often, I am told that love is not wrong and You tell me that it can be if it is for the wrong thing or person or in the wrong proportion. Please teach me the right way to love, that I might be worthy of You.

SOAP Journal – 07 November 2017 (2 Samuel 8)

And the LORD helped David wherever he went.

2 Samuel 8:6b

Chapter 7 was an accounting of David’s peacetime reflections and how his focus on God blessed God and, in turn, became a blessing to him (David) as well. Chapter 8 is accounting of how God helped David in various military campaigns. The portion of a verse chosen for this morning was chosen because it occurs twice in the chapter. Once as the second half of verse 6 and again as the second half of verse 14. More, this statement encapsulates the chapter neatly. Whatever military campaign is recorded in this chapter, the result is the same: [The] LORD helped David wherever he went.

It occurred to me this morning that this chapter is of a piece with the preceding chapter. David’s victory over his enemies began with a mind set on God in peacetime. It is the pattern that I see throughout his life. When he faces Goliath, it is not because he is suddenly brave in the moment of battle, but because he has made it a habit to spend time with God in every circumstance. He is able to look at the giant and see the giant as one more little problem for the God Who has kept David safe to that point in his life.

Yesterday’s message from my pastor included a talk about the heart of David. The part that I am reminded of this morning is that David had a confident heart. He was utterly secure in the care of God.

Sun Tzu wrote that the victorious general first secures his victory and then seeks out the battle while those who suffer defeat walk into battle and try to find a way to win through. David knew that victory was won in the quiet moments with God before ever a sword was unsheathed or a breastplate strapped on. And David spent time thinking about God and meditating on God’s Word so that the moment of stress had the result that the LORD helped David wherever he went.

What of my own life? If I am defeated when put to the test, it is not because God is any less able to grant victory now nor any less capable of giving me the ability to overcome temptations than physical enemies. If I am defeated, it is because I do not spend my peacetime meditating on God’s promises and praising Him and looking for ways to bless Him. If I have God in view when things are calm, then my view will only sharpen when the trial comes. If I do not have Him in view, then I will focus on whatever is in front of me.

Father, please forgive me for not keeping You consistently in view. Please train my heart and mind and soul to seek Your face in the peaceful moments in my life as much as in times of distress. Thank You for all Your goodness and benefits toward me. Thank You for Your love. And thank You that there is always another chance to get my walk right so long as I still draw breath.

SOAP Journal – 30 August 2017 (1 Samuel 11)

Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is he that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has accomplished deliverance in Israel.”

1 Samuel 11:12-13

Saul has been anointed as king and publicly proclaimed to be king of the Israelites, but there has not been an instance of him needing to go out before them and fight their battles (cf 1 Samuel 8:20). Now an Ammonite by the name of Nahash shows up and wants to maim every person in an Israelite city. The people of the city send messengers to ask for help and Saul answers the message.

Saul rallies all the fighting men among the Israelites — including, presumably, those worthless men mentioned in the previous chapter, since verse 7 says that [the Israelites] came out as one man — and replies to the message that deliverance is coming for that city (Jabesh-gilead).

After the victory is won, the Israelites tell Samuel that they want names of those who questioned Saul’s ability to deliver, which is the first of this morning’s two verses. Saul, as written above, says that the LORD has accomplished deliverance. Not Saul. Not the Israelite army. The LORD.

Afterward, Samuel suggests that everyone head over to Gilgal and renew the kingdom. The skeptics are convinced and it seems a good time to get everyone together in that moment and have them pledge their allegiance to the new king. The people listen to Samuel and head down to Gilgal to pledge their allegiance and to offer sacrifices. It is a celebration. And rightly so.

Saul is still in his “Good Beginning” phase of being a king. He sees the victory for what it is, the LORD saving His people, and gives credit where credit is due. And that is a good lesson for me.

I need to see things as they are and give credit where credit is due. Not just to God, but to anyone and everyone who contributes to the success of an endeavor. Seldom will any success in life be the result of my efforts alone and I need to be mindful of that and credit those who contribute.

Father, thank You for not giving victory in isolation, lest I grow prideful. Thank You that You so often bring success through the efforts of several of Your children working together in Your strength. Please keep me mindful of that and give me a heart that is ready and willing and glad to credit those who contribute to the success of any endeavor.

SOAP Journal – 18 July 2017 (Judges 1:20-21)

Then they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had promised; and he drove out from there the three sons of Anak. But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

Judges 1:20-21

The first chapter of Judges is a rehearsal of the victories and defeats of the Israelites after the death of Joshua. In a way, this first chapter feels like it ought to be the last chapter of Joshua. The victories end in this chapter and the Israelites go from idolatry to repentance to victory and on through the loop for the remainder of the book.

This morning’s verses caught my attention. These two verses feel like a comparison. Caleb, a solitary man of faith drives out three giants from his land, but the entire military might of the tribe of Benjamin — with the ability to call all of the other tribes for aid — cannot drive out the Jebusites from Jerusalem; cannot conquer a single city.  There is a temptation to look down on the tribe of Benjamin, then God whispers a question to me: “Have you done better?”

There are, basically, two ways to live my Christian life. I can live like Caleb: driving giants out of the land and conquering through faith. Or I can live like the tribe of Benjamin: falling short of fully taking possession of all that God wants to give me. There is not, as far as I can discern, anything in between.

How do I want to live?

Father, thank You for this comparison. Thank You that the battle belongs to You and that victory depends almost exclusively on You, though I know that I still have to obey. Please give me a heart like Caleb; a heart that trusts in You and Your promises and looks to receive all that You have for me.

SOAP Journal – 10 July 2017 (Joshua 12:7-24)

Now these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the sons of Israel defeated beyond the Jordan toward the west, from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon even as far as Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir; and Joshua gave it to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their divisions, in the hill country, in the lowland, in the Arabah, on the slopes, and in the wilderness, and in the Negev; the Hittite, the Amorite and the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite … in all, thirty-one kings.

Joshua 12:7-24

Chapter 12 is a recounting of the victories of the conquest of the Promised Land. This recounting is in summary form, which makes sense as the detail is included earlier in the book and in other books. The first 6 verses summarize the victories led by Moses before the Israelites crossed the Jordan. Verses 7-24 — this morning’s passage — summarize the victories won under Joshua’s command.

What caught my attention is the number of kings defeated. I am no numerologist and cannot say whether or not 31 has any special significance in its own right, but it is the number of days in the longest months on the calendar. It is almost as if God is saying that there is victory to be won every day. And the next chapter begins with God telling an old Joshua that there is still a lot of land left to conquer. No matter how much victory is in my past, there are still more victories yet to be won.

The Promised Land is viewed metaphorically in many ways. The way that I view it, the Promised Land is my self. What I want to conquer and have dominion over is my own mind and heart and all … in short, my self. To take possession of my self, control must be wrested from various little despots like wrong ways of thinking and sins over which I am not yet victorious. And there always seems to be some other petty tyrant in my life doing its level best to ruin all the good work that God has already accomplished.

July has, for me, gotten off to a rocky start. It is not that there has been much defeat, but rather that there have been a few seemingly small victories. God already conquered a Jericho in my life in the form of anger. He has conquered many other areas, as well. But there are still giants in the land and there are still little tyrants in my heart and mind waging war with God and with me. They will be defeated, but I am glad of the reminder that there are always the victories whose stories are told and the victories that only really show up in summarized fashion. Some are worth recounting in their entirety. Others deserve only a footnote. But all are victories and worthy of some note.

Father, thank You that the victories are Yours and therefore the battles are also Yours. Please continue to lead me through the battles in my life to take possession of my Promised Land: me.

SOAP Journal – 29 July 2017 (Joshua 10:42)

Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one time, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

Joshua 10:42

When I read this verse, I had a bit of a Dirty Harry moment — in all the excitement, I lost count. So I went back and read over the chapter again and found myself with a count of 12 kings and their armies utterly obliterated. And this verse gives the reason for such an extensive run of victory: because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

I find myself wanting to write at length about this, but the truth is that the concept is simple and its application straightforward. The concept is this: when God fights on my behalf, I win. That is all.

And this generalizes out to every circumstance in life. If I am trying to overcome some entangling sin, I will win free when God fights for me. If I am trying to cultivate a virtue in my life and the battle is against my baser nature, I will win and the virtue be cultivated when God is the One Who fights. When I fight alone, defeat is imminent. When God fights, victory is assured.

This does prompt me to ask myself some searching questions, like “Why do I ever fight unless I am sure that God has told me to?” and “If God wins when He fights, then why would I ever bother to fight at all?” And I do not have good answers for all of those questions. But the principle of certain victory when God fights for me is simple and the application as direct as me determining not to fight unless God bids me, but to invite God to contend on my behalf.

Father, thank You that You are willing to fight for Your children; that You will readily face down every foe on our behalf. Please work this truth in me so that I stand and see what You will do and only fight when You tell me to.