Friday, May 29, 2009

David blesses God


It is funny how some of the most enduring things we do in life are a sideline, an afterthought, a thing that we did while the main part of our life was charging full steam ahead.

For David, his main thing was winning the wars, establishing the kingdom, making peace and prosperity for his nation.

But a passion of his was to create a marvelous place for God to be worshipped. He wanted so badly to build it, but God said "no." His hands were bloody from too much war and killing. So he prepared everything necessary for his son to build the temple. The temple became one of David's enduring legacies. Listen to him talk to his people about it...

"...this is not just a place for people to meet each other, but a house for God to meet us. I've done my best to get everything together for building this house for my God, all the materials necessary: gold, silver, bronze, iron, lumber, precious and varicolored stones, and building stones—vast stockpiles. Furthermore, because my heart is in this, in addition to and beyond what I have gathered, I'm turning over my personal fortune of gold and silver for making this place of worship for my God: 3,000 talents (about 113 tons) of gold—all from Ophir, the best—and 7,000 talents (214 tons) of silver for covering the walls of the buildings, and for the gold and silver work by craftsmen and artisans."

Men, materials and money. All were prepared and ready. He turns to the people...

"And now, how about you? Who among you is ready and willing to join in the giving?"
6 -8 Ready and willing, the heads of families, leaders of the tribes of Israel, commanders and captains in the army, stewards of the king's affairs, stepped forward and gave willingly. They gave 5,000 talents (188 tons) and 10,000 darics (185 pounds) of gold, 10,000 talents of silver (377 tons), 18,000 talents of bronze (679 tons), and 100,000 talents (3,775 tons) of iron. Anyone who had precious jewels put them in the treasury for the building of The Temple of God in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite.
9 And the people were full of a sense of celebration—all that giving! And all given willingly, freely! King David was exuberant."

There was a sense of national celebration. David took his inward habit of blessing and praising and worshipping God and let it flow into his public expression...

10 -13 "David blessed God in full view of the entire congregation: Blessed are you, God of Israel, our father from of old and forever. To you, O God, belong the greatness and the might, the glory, the victory, the majesty, the splendor; Yes! Everything in heaven, everything on earth; the kingdom all yours! You've raised yourself high over all. Riches and glory come from you, you're ruler over all; You hold strength and power in the palm of your hand to build up and strengthen all. And here we are, O God, our God, giving thanks to you, praising your splendid Name.
14 -19 "But me—who am I, and who are these my people, that we should presume to be giving something to you? Everything comes from you; all we're doing is giving back what we've been given from your generous hand. As far as you're concerned, we're homeless, shiftless wanderers like our ancestors, our lives mere shadows, hardly anything to us. God, our God, all these materials—these piles of stuff for building a house of worship for you, honoring your Holy Name—it all came from you! It was all yours in the first place! I know, dear God, that you care nothing for the surface—you want us, our true selves—and so I have given from the heart, honestly and happily. "

He was the leader of the people in the fullest sense. He now talks to God about the people...

"And now see all these people doing the same, giving freely, willingly—what a joy! O God, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, keep this generous spirit alive forever in these people always, keep their hearts set firmly in you. And give my son Solomon an uncluttered and focused heart so that he can obey what you command, live by your directions and counsel, and carry through with building The Temple for which I have provided."
20 David then addressed the congregation: "Bless God, your God!" And they did it, blessed God, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped reverently in the presence of God and the king."

At the end of his life, as he had done all through his life,

David blesses God...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sacrifice


In yesterday's story David was the shmuck. He went against his conscience. 70,000 people were killed by the angel of God. The announced punishment was only a third of the way done.

Today he is the hero again, a position we are much more comfortable with...

David had chosen to accept the punishment of having God stike down the people of Israel for three days, choosing to throw himself on the mercy of God.

"The angel of God had just reached the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David looked up and saw the angel hovering between earth and sky, sword drawn and about to strike Jerusalem. David and the elders bowed in prayer and covered themselves with rough burlap.
17 When David saw the angel about to destroy the people, he prayed, "Please! I'm the one who sinned; I, the shepherd, did the wrong. But these sheep, what did they do wrong? Punish me and my family, not them."

That prayer, and that humility, effectively stopped the slaughter. God spoke to David through His prophet.

18 -19 "That same day Gad came to David and said, "Go and build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." David did what Gad told him, what God commanded." No time lost. David wanted to do WHATEVER God said.

20 -21 "Araunah looked up and saw David and his men coming his way; he met them, bowing deeply, honoring the king and saying, "Why has my master the king come to see me?"
"To buy your threshing floor," said David, "so I can build an altar to God here and put an end to this disaster."
22 -23 "Oh," said Araunah, "let my master the king take and sacrifice whatever he wants. Look, here's an ox for the burnt offering and threshing paddles and ox-yokes for fuel—Araunah gives it all to the king! And may God, your God, act in your favor."

This loyal subject, a little intimidated by the king's presence, offers anything he has for the king's use. Here is where David's greatness is demonstrated once again.

24 -25 "But the king said to Araunah, "No. I've got to buy it from you for a good price; I'm not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice."

This principle rings true today as well. We call our offerings "gifts". That is the wrong word. It implies that what we have is ours to do with as we will. It implies that what we give to God is discretionary. We can give, or not, based upon our whim. I think the word "sacrifice" explains better that we recognize that God is God. He own it all.

"So David bought the threshing floor and the ox, paying out fifty shekels of silver. He built an altar to God there and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. God was moved by the prayers and that was the end of the disaster."

David paid full price for the land and the ox that was to be sacrificed. The coolest part of this story, is that God was moved. God was pleased. God was impacted by what David did.

Big lesson there!

Confusing


Today's story does not make sense to me...

Here's how it starts in 2 Samuel 24.
1 -2 "Once again God's anger blazed out against Israel. He tested David by telling him, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah."

Each of those three phrases is confusing. God's anger blazed against Israel? You have to assume they were worshipping idols again, but it doesn't say that. At the end of the story a very large number of people are killed. So God's anger is pretty serious.

He tested David by telling him... My greatest intrigue all along has been how we hear from God. How we know it is Him. And how when we obey His voice His blessings follow. So this flies in the face of all of that. God TOLD David to do something bad? And David obeyed? And something terrible happened? THAT is confusing...

"Go and take a census of Israel and Judah." That was the great crime? Find out how many people are in the kingdom? Every nation does that on an ongoing basis. So how is it wicked and deserving of great punishment? THAT is confusing...

"David gave orders to Joab and the army officers under him, "Canvass all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and get a count of the population. I want to know the number." THAT was the great sin. I don't get it...

Somehow Joab, the mighty general, David's faithful warrior, knows that this is a bad thing. How did he know? What am I missing?

3 "But Joab resisted the king: "May your God multiply people by the hundreds right before the eyes of my master the king, but why on earth would you do a thing like this?"

Of course, the king is the king. 4 -9 "Nevertheless, the king insisted, and so Joab and the army officers left the king to take a census of Israel." It takes them over 9 months (didn't they have a computer network back then?) and they report back.

10"But when it was all done, David was overwhelmed with guilt because he had counted the people, replacing trust with statistics. And David prayed to God, "I have sinned badly in what I have just done. But now God forgive my guilt—I've been really stupid."

A couple of things. If David knew this was wrong, why did it take his consciense nearly a year to kick into gear? Did he know somehow that it was wrong, but lived by the latin american phrase, "Its better to ask forgiveness than ask permission?" The other thing - how did he know it was so wrong?

11 -12"When David got up the next morning, the word of God had already come to Gad the prophet, David's spiritual advisor, "Go and give David this message: 'God has spoken thus: There are three things I can do to you; choose one out of the three and I'll see that it's done.'"
13 Gad came to deliver the message: "Do you want three years of famine in the land, or three months of running from your enemies while they chase you down, or three days of an epidemic on the country? Think it over and make up your mind. What shall I tell the one who sent me?"

The result is that God's angel killed 70,000 people. That's more than all the US soldiers killed in Vietnam in the 10 years we were over there. That is a pretty big deal!

During the rest of this story, God never speaks directly to David again. Only through this never-before-mentioned prophet - Gad. But David knew it was God, speaking to him through this man.
So in this story, God talked to David directly to test him, and talked to him through a faithful friend and also through a spiritual leader. Does this indicate that David's relationship with God had cooled as his reign progressed? Did prosperity and ease dull his spiritual edge?

I have way more questions than answers from this story. I find it confusing...
ps. - 1 Chronicles 21 sets up this story with a different beginning. 1 -2"Now Satan entered the scene and seduced David into taking a census of Israel." THAT certainly makes more sense to me...