Friday, May 1, 2009

How do you rate?

One of the advantages of a free society is that you can rise to your own level. You are not restricted by what your parents did, to doing that and nothing else the rest of your life. And according to your skill, your drive, your talents, good health, and perhaps good friends (or connections) you can make your own way in life.

It was that way in David's time as well. The primary skill that was needed and lauded, was that of being brave, and being able to defeat the enemy in battle. Wars happened every spring. The outcome of the war led to either poverty, slavery and death on the one hand, or victory, extraordinary wealth, glory, and accumulation of land, goods, slaves, cattle, etc. on the other hand.

So the warriors were the undisputed heroes of the land.

Here are David's fighters:

Soldiers:
38 -40 "All these soldiers came to David at Hebron, ready to fight if necessary; they were both united and determined to make David king over all Israel. And everyone else in Israel was of the same mind—"Make David king!"

Outstanding Soldiers:
"battle-seasoned warriors who came down from the north to David at Hebron to hand over Saul's kingdom... carrying shield and spear.. battle-ready... stalwart fighters... fierce fighters and famous in their hometowns... well-equipped veteran warriors, unswervingly loyal... men heavily armed.. veterans, battle-ready... heavily armed." (I Chronicles 12:23 -37)

Soldiers worth 1000 men.
8 -15 "There were some Gadites there who had defected to David at his wilderness fortress; they were seasoned and eager fighters who knew how to handle shield and spear. They were wild in appearance, like lions, but as agile as gazelles racing across the hills... These Gadites were the cream of the crop—any one of them was worth a hundred lesser men, and the best of them were worth a thousand." (I Chronicles 12:8-15).

Among the Mighty Men
1 -2 "These are the men who joined David in Ziklag; it was during the time he was banished by Saul the son of Kish; they were among the Mighty Men, good fighters. They were armed with bows and could sling stones and shoot arrows either right or left-handed."

The Mighty Men:
22 -25 "Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a Mighty Man from Kabzeel with many exploits to his credit: he killed two famous Moabites; he climbed down into a pit and killed a lion on a snowy day; and he killed an Egyptian, a giant seven and a half feet tall. The Egyptian had a spear like a ship's boom but Benaiah went at him with a mere club, tore the spear from the Egyptian's hand, and killed him with it. These are some of the things Benaiah son of Jehoiada did. But he was never included with the Three. He was highly honored among the Thirty, but didn't measure up to the Three. David put him in charge of his personal bodyguard.
26 -47 The Mighty Men of the military were Asahel brother of Joab, Elhanan son of Dodo of Bethlehem, Shammoth the Harorite..." (I Chronicles 11)

The THIRTY:
"Jashobeam son of Hacmoni was chief of the Thirty. Singlehandedly he killed three hundred men, killed them all in one skirmish.
20 -21 Abishai brother of Joab was the chief of the Thirty. Singlehandedly he fought three hundred men, and killed the lot, but he never made it into the circle of the Three. He was highly honored by the Thirty—he was their chief—still, he didn't measure up to the Three. " (I Chronicles 11).

This is a pretty impressive list of mighty men. Yet it gets better...

The Big Three:
15 -19 "The Big Three from the Thirty made a rocky descent to David at the Cave of Adullam while a company of Philistines was camped in the Valley of Rephaim. David was holed up in the Cave while the Philistines were prepared for battle at Bethlehem. David had a sudden craving: "What I wouldn't give for a drink of water from the well in Bethlehem, the one at the gate!" The Three penetrated the Philistine camp, drew water from the well at the Bethlehem gate, shouldered it, and brought it to David. And then David wouldn't drink it! He poured it out as a sacred offering to God, saying, "I'd rather be damned by God than drink this! It would be like drinking the lifeblood of these men—they risked their lives to bring it." So he refused to drink it. These are the kinds of things that the Big Three of the Mighty Men did.
12 -14 Next was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite, one of the Big Three of the Mighty Men. He was with David at Pas Dammim, where the Philistines had mustered their troops for battle. It was an area where there was a field of barley. The army started to flee from the Philistines and then took its stand right in that field—and turned the tide! They slaughtered the Philistines, God helping them—a huge victory." (I Chronicles 11)

The Lead General:
"David had said, "The first person to kill a Jebusite will be commander-in-chief." Joab son of Zeruiah was the first; and he became the chief." (I Chronicles 11)

The Leader:
David himself was a Mighty Man, someone with the courage, strength, boldness and skill to engender the respect and loyalty of all these amazing warriors.

So how do you rate? Have you risen to the level you should be at? Are you satisfied with where you are in life? Are your talents, skills and energy being appropriately rewarded where you are? Or should you claim your spot among the "mighty men"?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wither away? Or Attack?

David is King of Israel.

Sort of. He is living in Hebron, and rules over the southern half of the country.

After seven years the leaders of the rest of the country come and install him as king.

Not all the land has been conquered. Right in the middle of their territory, is a fortress, a stronghold of the Jebusites. They know David is a mighty warrior. They also know their city is impregnable.

So they mock David. "Even the disabled and blind can defend this place against David!"



David consults with his "guys." He promises the commander of the army position to the first one in. Joab gets in, and becomes the first general of David's reign.

4 -6 David and all Israel went to Jerusalem (it was the old Jebus, where the Jebusites lived). The citizens of Jebus told David, "No trespassing—you can't come here." David came on anyway and captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. David had said, "The first person to kill a Jebusite will be commander-in-chief." Joab son of Zeruiah was the first; and he became the chief.

The waterway is mentioned. I think he found the underground tunnel that fed water to the city and used it to penetrate their defenses.

This is a major victory for David.

7 -9 David took up residence in the fortress city; that's how it got its name, "City of David." David fortified the city all the way around, both the outer bulwarks (the Millo) and the outside wall. Joab rebuilt the city gates. David's stride became longer, his embrace larger—yes, God-of-the-Angel-Armies was with him!

So what was David's biggest obstacle, became his hallmark. His namesake.

How about you? Facing obstacles.

Wither away? Or Attack?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who's in your family tree?

Chronicle - a record or narrative description of past events.

We are in the BOOK of Chronicles, chapters 7-9. It is a record of the family tree of Israel. Most of it drones on... Sometimes there is a tidbit of interest.

So this one family had sons, and among the sons were two cattle thieves! Dangerous profession, even if exciting and lucrative. Sure enough, they were on a raid and got killed! Dad mourns his two thieving sons... It's all in the Bible!

20 -24 "The sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah, Bered his son... Ezer and Elead, cattle-rustlers, killed on one of their raids by the natives of Gath. Their father Ephraim grieved a long time and his family gathered to give him comfort."

I think I would rather be remembered in the Bible as the following family:

"These were Asher's sons, all of them responsible, excellent in character, and brave in battle—good leaders."

Or there is the dude called Shaharaim. (Lookin' for a name for your soon to be born son? Maybe pass on this one) He had some family problems.

8 -12 "In the land of Moab, Shaharaim had children after he divorced his wives Hushim and Baara. From his new wife Hodesh he had Jobab, Zibia, Mesha, Malcam, Jeuz, Sakia, and Mirmah—sons who became heads of families. From his earlier wife Hushim he had Abitub and Elpaal. Elpaal's sons were Eber, Misham, and Shemed, who built Ono and Lod with all their villages."

There were the preachers and pastors...

10 -13 "From the company of priests there were Jedaiah... the son the son of Ahitub, who was in charge of taking care of the house of God; Adaiah son of Jeroham... The priests, all of them heads of families, numbered 1,760, skilled and seasoned servants in the work of worshiping God."

Worship leaders...

33 -34 "And then there were the musicians, all heads of Levite families. They had permanent living quarters in The Temple; because they were on twenty-four-hour duty, they were exempt from all other duties. These were the heads of Levite families as designated in their family tree. They lived in Jerusalem."

And the passage ends with Saul's final epitaph:

Here lies Saul, first king of Israel.
13 -14 "Saul died in disobedience, disobedient to God. He didn't obey God's words. Instead of praying, he went to a witch to seek guidance. Because he didn't go to God for help, God took his life and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Singing da Blues...


Ya EVER felt down?
Da DA da da da...
Worl' STOPPED going roun'
Da DA da da da...
No POINT goin' on
Da DA da da da...
God's NOT coming down
Da DA da da da...
o
Ever felt like singin' da blues?
o
Here is the prayer for you...
o
Psalm 88
A Korah Prayer of Heman
1 -9 God, you're my last chance of the day. I spend the night on my knees before you. Put me on your salvation agenda; take notes on the trouble I'm in. I've had my fill of trouble; I'm camped on the edge of hell. I'm written off as a lost cause, one more statistic, a hopeless case. Abandoned as already dead, one more body in a stack of corpses, And not so much as a gravestone— I'm a black hole in oblivion.
o
You've dropped me into a bottomless pit, sunk me in a pitch-black abyss. I'm battered senseless by your rage, relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger. You turned my friends against me, made me horrible to them. I'm caught in a maze and can't find my way out, blinded by tears of pain and frustration.
o
9 -12 I call to you, God; all day I call. I wring my hands, I plead for help. Are the dead a live audience for your miracles? Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you? Does your love make any difference in a graveyard? Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell? Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark, your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory? 13 -18 I'm standing my ground, God, shouting for help, at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.
o
Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear? Why do you make yourself scarce? For as long as I remember I've been hurting; I've taken the worst you can hand out, and I've had it. Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life; I'm bleeding, black-and-blue. You've attacked me fiercely from every side, raining down blows till I'm nearly dead. You made lover and neighbor alike dump me;
o
the only friend I have left is Darkness.

A Song to Our Strong God!


Did David and his boys know how to light up the night?
I think so-o-o-o-o-o

Psalm 81
An Asaph Psalm

Si-i-i-i-i-ng...

1 -5 "A song to our strong God!"

now - - SHOUT!

"a shout to the God of Jacob!"

Ready? Bring in the choir...

"Anthems from the choir,"

one... two... three... four...

"music from the band,"

Come in strings...

"sweet sounds from lute and harp,"

Now brass...

"Trumpets and trombones and horns:"

ALL TOGETHER...

"it's festival day, a feast to God!"
A day decreed by God,
solemnly ordered by the God of Jacob."

Repeat!

On the beat!

1 -5 "A song to our strong God! a shout to the God of Jacob! Anthems from the choir, music from the band, sweet sounds from lute and harp, Trumpets and trombones and horns: it's festival day, a feast to God! A day decreed by God, solemnly ordered by the God of Jacob. He commanded Joseph to keep this day so we'd never forget what he did in Egypt. I hear this most gentle whisper from One I never guessed would speak to me: 6 -7 "I took the world off your shoulders, freed you from a life of hard labor. You called to me in your pain; I got you out of a bad place. I answered you from where the thunder hides, I proved you at Meribah Fountain."


Or on a more majestic note...

Psalm 93
1 -2 "God is King, robed and ruling,
God is robed and surging with strength.
And yes, the world is firm, immovable,
Your throne ever firm—you're Eternal!
3 -4 Sea storms are up, God,
Sea storms wild and roaring,
Sea storms with thunderous breakers.
Stronger than wild sea storms,
Mightier than sea-storm breakers,
Mighty God rules from High Heaven.
5 What you say goes—it always has.
"Beauty" and "Holy" mark your palace rule,
God, to the very end of time."

Music to exalt God has been going on since before the creation of the world...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Faith


So what do you do when your world is turned upside down and God seems to have abandoned you?

What do you do when you have prayed and prayed and prayed and it did no good? What a waste of effort. And for what?

What do you do when you've been a "good little girl", a "good little boy" and the result was just as bad or worse than the people "livin la vida loca"? And you think, "What's the use?"

We just finished a study by Andy Stanley in our Sunday School, and he made the point that our faith is the ultimate prize in the battle between God and Satan. Sure - our souls - but before that, our faith.

Know this.

Our faith is under all out attack.

It is not subtle.

It is not hidden.

Our faith is under all out attack.

What did the guy writing Psalm 77 do?

Look back.
11 -12 Once again I'll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I'll ponder all the things you've accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.

Look up.
13 -15 O God! Your way is holy! No god is great like God! You're the God who makes things happen; you showed everyone what you can do— You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble, rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.

Look Around.
16 -19 Ocean saw you in action, God, saw you and trembled with fear; Deep Ocean was scared to death. Clouds belched buckets of rain, Sky exploded with thunder, your arrows flashing this way and that. From Whirlwind came your thundering voice, Lightning exposed the world, Earth reeled and rocked. You strode right through Ocean, walked straight through roaring Ocean, but nobody saw you come or go. 20 Hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron, You led your people like a flock of sheep.

Ultimately?

Get on your knees and surrender...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

When Faith Dies...

Did you think anger at God was recent?
Listen to Psalm 77.

An Asaph Psalm
1 "I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens."

I think all people everywhere turn to God when there is trouble.

2 -6 "I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord; my life was an open wound that wouldn't heal. When friends said, "Everything will turn out all right," I didn't believe a word they said."

"I remember God—and shake my head. I bow my head—then wring my hands. I'm awake all night—not a wink of sleep; I can't even say what's bothering me. I go over the days one by one, I ponder the years gone by. I strum my lute all through the night, wondering how to get my life together."

There is distress so deep that no one can share it. Typically we turn to God for help, for comfort. But what if He doesn't meet our expectations?

7 -10 "Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good? Will he never smile again? Is his love worn threadbare? Has his salvation promise burned out? Has God forgotten his manners? Has he angrily stalked off and left us? "

That's when we come to some conclusions. I need God. He isn't there. Maybe He doesn't care. Maybe He is powerless. What if? What if it is all a myth? A Sunday School story? A fantasy?

What if there NEVER WAS anything to this? It really is just a crutch? Leaned on by those too weak to face life head on?

"Just my luck," I said. "The High God goes out of business just the moment I need him."


What if?

What if?

That ain't right

Don't know if you ever saw the 2003 movie "Head of State." Chris Rock makes this great off the cuff speech that brings the crowd to its feet. The phrase he repeats again and again is, "That ain't right." The crowd chants with him... "that ain't right!"

Long before Chris Rock made up this movie, or wrote the speech, the writer of Psalm 73 had the same sentiment.

Psalm 73
An Asaph Psalm
1 -5 No doubt about it! God is good-good to good people, good to the good-hearted. But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness.

I was looking the other way, looking up to the people At the top, envying the wicked who have it made, Who have nothing to worry about, not a care in the whole wide world.

"That ain't right!"

6 -10 Pretentious with arrogance, they wear the latest fashions in violence, Pampered and overfed, decked out in silk bows of silliness. They jeer, using words to kill; they bully their way with words. They're full of hot air, loudmouths disturbing the peace.

"That ain't right!"

People actually listen to them—can you believe it? Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words. 11 -14 What's going on here? Is God out to lunch? Nobody's tending the store. The wicked get by with everything; they have it made, piling up riches.

"That ain't right!"

I've been stupid to play by the rules; what has it gotten me? A long run of bad luck, that's what— a slap in the face every time I walk out the door.

"That ain't right!"

Then the Psalmist turns a corner.

15 -20. . . Until I entered the sanctuary of God. Then I saw the whole picture: The slippery road you've put them on, with a final crash in a ditch of delusions. In the blink of an eye, disaster! A blind curve in the dark, and—nightmare! We wake up and rub our eyes....Nothing. There's nothing to them. And there never was.

"That there's RIGHT!"

21 -24 When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. I'm still in your presence, but you've taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me.

"That there's RIGHT!"

25 -28 You're all I want in heaven! You're all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful.

"That there's RIGHT!"

Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they'll never be heard from again.

"That there's RIGHT!"

But I'm in the very presence of God— oh, how refreshing it is! I've made Lord God my home. God, I'm telling the world what you do!

"That there's RIGHT!"

"That there's RIGHT!"

"That there's RIGHT!"