News Alert! Paul was human! Excuse the hyperbole, but I wonder sometimes if we inappropriately place Paul on a pedestal far above us, a little above Peter, and just a tad below Jesus. The humanity of Peter is easy to see and empathize with; just ask anyone with the habit of inserting foot into mouth. Peter even needed rebuking; by both Jesus and Paul. But Paul, do we ever see human weakness in Paul?
Compare Paul’s reactions to dying in Philippians 1 and 2 Corinthians 1. Paul is in prison at the time of writing, “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil.1:21). He doesn’t even know which one to choose (v.22). Death is described euphemistically as a “desire to depart” (v.23). How calm. How philosophical. How theoretical.
Compare that demeanor and language to “our affliction,” “completely overwhelmed,” “beyond our strength,” and “personally had a death sentence” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). Not quite so calm, philosophical or theoretical. Why the difference? Paul is human.
First, how human is it to be able to remain calm when simply discussing the possibility instead of the reality of death? All of us know we will die, unless Jesus returns first. We even joke about it. But hearing the news from the doctor changes the perspective, doesn’t it? Being at the other end of a gun or knife is terrifying. Second, Paul lets us in on a divine secret. God allows this death sentence “so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor.1:9). Even the great Paul needs reminding not to fear dying. Preaching the resurrection is different than living the hope. Third, while no one knows what the affliction is in 2 Corinthians, many believe it is the wild animals in Ephesus that Paul fought (1 Cor.15:32). Different manners of death understandably produce different reactions. Being beheaded is humane compared to being torn limb from limb. Finally, although the two epistles are only separated by around 5 years, Paul is more mature and experienced in Philippians. Older people handle death differently than the young.
So, Paul is human. I’m sure that wasn’t news to him.
If the God of all comfort, comforts us so that we can comfort those in affliction (2 Cor.1.3-4); then God gives what He is, and we give what we receive. We want to love people out of their hurt, but some hurt so deeply, it is stronger than any love. Any human love, that is. Consider, “For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through the Christ our comfort also overflows” (2 Cor.1:5). To “comfort” means to come along side of for the purpose of strengthening. It hurts us when we realize our love is not strong enough to overflow the hurt of those we love. So love people into Christ, love them in your relationships; but only Christ’s love can heal their hurt so as to overcome and become victors. If you are hurting, realize Christ’s suffering was greater than yours, which means His comfort is greater than your hurt. “Be healed,” not by a miracle; be healed by the sufferings and comfort of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
I wonder if the prayer would change if offered to God after the collection had been counted? Would it be depressing, or one of praise? Every Sunday Christians contribute for the ministry of the church (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Before the Lord’s Supper we often sing a song “to prepare our minds.” Before the contribution we also should have our minds prepared to give as we have prospered (1 Corinthians 16.2), as cheerfully decided in our own hearts (2 Corinthians 9.7). A prelude to giving includes first giving of ourselves (2 Corinthians 8.5).
Before David’s prayer of praise (1 Chronicles 29), he takes up a collection for the building of the temple. He is amazed. He acknowledges this is God’s work, help is needed, God deserves the glory, he gave his personal best (29.1-3). In conclusion, like an invitation to a sermon, is the summons, “Now who will volunteer to consecrated himself to the LORD today?” (29.5). The result is the leaders “gave willingly” (29.6); “the people rejoiced because of their leaders’ willingness to give” (29.9); the leaders “had given to the LORD with a whole heart” (29.9). Let’s rewrite this prayer to fit our times. Notice how the prayer echoes the reality within the givers. Read carefully and compare to the prayers offered before the contribution:
“May You be praised, our Father, from eternity to eternity. Yours is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and Jesus is exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from You, and You are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in Your hand, and it is in Your hand to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we give You thanks and praise Your glorious name. But who are we that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your own hand. For we live before You as foreigners and temporary residents in Your presence as were all our spiritual ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. All this wealth that we’ve provided for building your kingdom for Your holy name comes from Your hand; everything belongs to You. I know, my God, that You test the heart and that You are pleased with what is right. We have willingly given all these things with an upright heart, and have seen Your people who are present here giving joyfully and willingly to You. Lord God of our ancestors, keep this desire forever in the thoughts of the hearts of Your people, and confirm their hearts toward You. Give us and our families a whole heart to keep and to carry out all Your commands, Your decrees, and Your statutes, and to build Your kingdom for which we have made provision. In Christ, Amen.”
Prayer Challenge: How happy are we to give and be able to give? Pray for happiness.
Do you get paid to do your job? Of course, you do, that is why you work. If they stopped paying, you would quit. That is, unless, you enjoy your job so much it is like a hobby you get paid to do. They say if you enjoy your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. For that kind of job, you would do it regardless of the pay. You just might have to work another job to compensate for the one you’d do for free.
As a preacher, I get paid. I have also not been paid, and have turned down money. I have been underpaid; and some have argued overpaid. Joking around, I tell people I don’t go to church because I want to, but because I am paid to. I also “complain” my Boss makes me work on Sundays! Some joke back that I get paid to work only 1 or 2 days a week. Some are not joking! Getting serious, I like to tell people that I do not get paid to preach, but I get paid so I can preach. I hope you can understand the difference.
What if someone asked you to pray for them, would you? What if they offered to compensate you for your time in prayer? You’d turn them down, right? What if someone promised they would pray for you if you paid them to? You’d be both befuddled and offended. Sadly, that sounds just strange enough to be real on some televangelist TV show. And yet….
David is a great organizer. After moving the Tabernacle to Jerusalem, he gets busy organizing things and people. That includes the Levites. Basically, David put them out of a job. Their main responsibility before was to move the Tabernacle and its furniture. In the wilderness, this was a heavy responsibility, both literally and spiritually. Since “the LORD God of Israel has given rest to His people, and He has come to stay in Jerusalem forever” (1 Chronicles 23.25); “the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the equipment for its service” (23.26). When it became permanent in Jerusalem, both in Tabernacle and Temple form, David took away their work. So he assigned them new jobs along with some of the old (23.25-32). One of their new responsibilities was to “stand every morning to give thanks and praise to the LORD, and likewise in the evening” (23.30). Considering the tithes of the Israelites supported the priests and the Levites, simply put, the Levites got paid to pray.
What if you got paid to pray? What if you got paid to attend church? What if when you walked through the doors, you received a ticket with a number, and at the end of services the winning number would be called out? Would you be more involved? Would you go with a different attitude? Of course, all that would be totally unbiblical today. But in the days of David, the Levites got paid to pray. It was their job. What a great job.
Prayer Challenge: Attitude is not everything, but it is most everything. God doesn’t pay us to worship or serve Him. But Christ did pay the price so we could. When we pray, Thank Jesus for paying the price we could not afford.
“Victimless crimes” are illegal acts to which all consent and none are injured. Or so they claim. Poker for example; and admittedly no party is injured…if all the parties can afford to lose. Software piracy is another example; it is easier on the conscience to steal from someone as distant as the internet makes people to be, when no eyes are watching. Doubtfully those who steal this way would walk out of a Wal-Mart without paying for even a candy bar. But no one is hurt stealing from millionaires, right? Prostitution is even argued to be a victimless. Broken families and objectified women would adamantly disagree. If prostitution is so victimless, why is it the last resort for runaways?
Such “logic” lends itself to “victimless sins” since crimes are legally variations of sins. Seeking “victimlesshood” is another way of seeking to satisfy selfishness without guilt. “Victimless sins” therefore would be Biblically contrary acts to which some parties consent and other parties are uninjured. Or so we think. Or so we hope. Or so we tell ourselves. Then again, we rationalize, even if some might be injured, they are not victims, “righteously” deserving what they get.
This brings us to David’s “victimless sin” (1 Chronicles 21). Satan rises out of hell against Israel. Satan incites David to count the people (21.1). Joab wisely says, “Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?” (21.3). When even a self-absorbed, short-sighted, selfish troublemaker like Joab thinks it’s a bad idea, it’s a bad idea. But why is this wrong? David isn’t fulfilling a command of God. David is fulfilling his own pride. Often an act is wrong only when its motive is wrong.
Yahweh chooses His seer Gad to rebuke David, offering him his choice of three punishments: three years of famine; three months of devastation by Israel’s foes; or three days of plague on the nation (21.12). All three would have the same result, a loss of lives, meaning a loss of numbers in David’s nation. Choosing the last because God’s “mercies are very great” (21.13); David sees the devastation and prays, “Wasn’t I the one who gave the order to count the people? I am the one who sinned and acted very wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? My LORD God, please let Your hand be against me and against my father’s family, but don’t let the plague be against Your people” (21.17). God tells David to worship. When David prays, fire from heaven falls burning the sacrifice. David, the man who inquires of the Lord so easily is afraid to inquire because of the Angel of the LORD. The scene ends with David terrified.
Why punish the people? One certainty from human experience is innocent victims personally hurts more than suffering ourselves. So David is punished, with something worse than death. Each death is due to David’s pride. Victimless sins have victims.
Prayer Challenge: Examine our life for victims. Repent to them and to God in prayer. Pray not to be selfish and self-centered.
Do you find it easier to give gifts, or to receive them? Personally, I like to give them…and I don’t mind receiving them either! If I had to choose one, it would be to give, except in the spiritual realm. I know that I unless I receive, I cannot give. Without God, I have nothing, and having nothing leads giving nothing. Receiving leads to giving back to God and others. Ultimately this leads to His glory because God is giving blessings instead of us trying to discover ways to bless God. David wanted to build God a house, but God says no; then tells David He will build a house for him, ultimately leading to the Messiah who blesses us (1 Chronicles 17.1-14). Since this prayer had been studied under Praying through the Bible #100, instead of skipping it or repeating what was said, let’s modernize this for our own personal benefit (17.16-27).
Then I went in, sat in the presence of my Father, His Son and the Holy Spirit, and said, “Who am I, and what is my family that You have brought us this far? I, my wife, and all four children have been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins in Your name and received the gift of salvation. This was a little thing to You, God, for You have spoken about Your servant’s salvation in the distant future. You regard me as a man worth saving, Lord God. What more can I say to You for honoring Your servant as Your child? Humbly I acknowledge that You personally know Your servant; and I know You. Jesus, You have done all this greatness, making known all these great promises of salvation according to Your will. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is no one like You, and there is no God besides You, as all we read in Your Holy Oracles confirms. And who is like Your people, the church of Jesus Christ? Incarnate One, You came down from heaven to be born from one nation on earth to redeem a people for Yourself. You came to make a name for Yourself through death and then through the great and awesome resurrection, by driving out the spiritual blackness from within Your people. You redeemed Your chosen ones from the bondage of the domain of darkness. You made a people not Yours, Your own people forever; and You, Lord, have become our God. Now, Lord, let the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant’s salvation and that of his family be confirmed forever, and do as You have promised. Let Your name be confirmed and magnified forever in the saying, ‘Jesus, Lord of Hosts, the God of His Church, is God over believers.’ May the house of Your servant serve You. Since You, my God, have revealed to Your servant that You will build a spiritual house that includes my house, Your servant has found courage to pray in Your presence. Jesus, You indeed are God, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant. So now, You have been pleased to bless Your servant’s house that it may continue before You forever. For You, Lord, have blessed it, and it is blessed forever in Jesus’ name amen.”
Prayer Challenge: There are fewer blessings more comforting than the salvation of your family. If yours is not yet saved, pray for them. If they are, praise God.
I am incredible! I must be incredible! After all, an incredible woman married me! Now before you think I’ve gone insane … “too late”… there is truth to the principle even if I don’t always live up to it. And I am not just speaking about me or for me. We often focus on the Worthy Woman of Proverbs 31. How can I be a man worthy of a Proverbs 31 woman? How can I be a “Proverbs 31 Man?” I think this is an important question for several reasons:
- The son, not the daughter, is the original audience.
- The husband is spoken of often in this acrostic poem of a worthy woman.
- Women often are overridden with inadequacy at their failures to match the worthy woman when the husband is spoken of often in this poem.
- If a man is not worthy of a worthy woman, why should she marry him?
- A man should not expect more from his woman than he expects from himself.
All of this takes in to consideration that the primary audience of this poem is the man, not the woman. It is a mother speaking to her son, and therefore by inspiration it is God speaking to men (Proverbs 31:1-2). This mother’s advice is one of the upmost importance, even causing consternation in the mother: “What should I say, my son? What, son of my womb? What son of my vows?” (v.2). This married mother wants good for the son of her husband. So let’s begin by making two obvious points:
- A worthy man begins by listening to his parents.
- A worthy man begins by listening to his God.
- A worthy parent speaks God’s wisdom.
“The Proverbs 31 Man” description begins before the glorious poem describing “The Proverbs 31 Woman.”
- Don’t Waste Yourself Looking for the Wrong Kind of Woman – v.3
- Don’t Waste your Mind on Alcohol – v.4-5
- Do Speak for Those Underprivileged – v.8
- Do Act for Those Underprivileged – v.9
Now some might object and say, “Hey, you skipped vv.6-7 which gives permission to drink.” OK, I want to be fair. Drinking leads to forgetting and is for troubled people. Also drinking is for those not looking for the worthy woman of vv.10-3; so it therefore is not for the worthy man of vv.10-31. Is that the type of man you want to be? Is that the type of man you want your wife to be married to? Is that they type of man you want your daughter to marry? Is that the type of man you want your son to be? This originally was written from a queen-mother to her son the king, to a king about his queen. If we want to have a queen for a wife, then we need to act like a king!
As we begin this passage, the writer asks a pertinent question (one which men are still asking today): Who can find a woman of excellence – one of high noble character (v.10) and class? What a powerful combination – Character and Class. There is almost a sense of frustration in the question. It’s as if he is pacing back and forth, scratching his head, pondering, muttering things under his breath like:
- Where do you look?
- Aren’t they in the usual places?
- What is she like?
- How would I know one if I saw one?
- There must not be very many around if you can’t find them!
- She must be pretty picky about the men she hangs out with.
- If there aren’t very many out there, but there are lots of guys looking, how do I stand a chance of attracting her?
Where do we begin looking? In the mirror! One of the most powerful secular songs is Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” If you are not familiar, check it out. Let’s go back briefly to the very first piece of advice the mother said to the son: “Don’t spend your energy on women or your efforts on those who destroy kings.” Summed up, don’t look in the wrong places for a good woman. It reminds me of an old, corny pickup line: “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” Maybe she isn’t a nice girl! Or maybe she is there to convert you to Christ, not to date you!
When it comes to dating, there is a lot of wasted time by both sexes because they are not focused on being a worthy man or a worthy woman. Dating to them is a game that turns into a life sentence with someone they never should have dated. A young man, married only a year, told me how he decided to find a wife. He showed a lot of wisdom, and common sense. He said, “You are not going to find a wife where you are not.” By that he meant, if you do not frequent certain establishments like bars, etcetera, then what makes you think you should go to such places to find a wife? Look for a wife where you are, because then you will find a woman who has the same interests as you. He found his wife at work. I found mine at church. When Janet and I were dating, she worked at a bank. Her friends asked incredulously, “Where would you meet a preacher, because it wouldn’t be in a bar?” Of course, for the spiritually minded, there is a simple answer to that question.
So let’s not overlook that there is a man of Proverbs 31 also. If we want our wife to be the excellent wife of Proverbs 31, then we need to be the excellent husband of Proverbs 31. Can a husband or a wife reach their full potential without the other also becoming their best? Who is a Proverbs 31 Man?
- A Man Who Is Willing to Look and Wait – v.10
- A Man Who Knows The Value Of A Worthy Woman – v.10
- A Man Who Finds a Trustworthy Woman and Trusts Her – v.11
- A Man With A Good Reputation – v.23
- A Man Who Is Wise – v.23
- A Man Who Praises His Wife – v.28
- A Man Who Praises His Wife Above All – v.29
- A Man Who Praise His Wife Publicly – v.31
- A Man Who Values Inner Qualities – v.30
You’ve been waiting for this moment a long time. Time is often relative, based upon pain, guilt, and doubt. Three months can be a long time when you’re the one at fault. Three months of wondering if God will give you another chance after committing “that” sin. For David, finally, after the disaster of moving the ark unscripturally, after three months of waiting, David once again tries. This time, he carefully follows God’s instructions. This time the wait is over. So what is the emotional outcome? Not just praise, but writing a prayer-song written to instruct others to praise (1 Chronicles 16.8-36). Let’s take this song-prayer, “Christianize,” and personalize it, and then pray it.
I give thanks to you Father, my Brother and my Comforter by calling on the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I proclaim Your deeds among my neighbors. I sing to You, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; and tell about all Your wonderful works! I honor You, praying “Holy be Your name.” I set my mind on things above and rejoice. Help me to search for You, for by Your strength I can do all things through Christ. Let me never hide from, but to seek Your face always. Oh God, I see how great a love the Father has given me that I should be called God’s child— I am a chosen one. You are my God. I remember Your old and new covenants forever — the promise You ordained for a thousand generations, the covenant You made with Abraham, and to Christ’s church as an everlasting covenant: blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. When only 120 gathered in the upper room, temporary residents in this world, You allowed no one to overcome them spiritually. Oh God, rebuke Satan on my behalf: “Do not touch My anointed one or harm My child.” I sing to You and proclaim my salvation in Jesus’ name, day to day. I declare Your glory among my friends, neighbors and co-workers – “My God is great and highly praised; He is feared above all fears. The Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His place.” Ascribe to the Lord, my family, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to Jesus the glory of His name; I bring myself as an offering and come before You. I worship in the splendor of Your holiness; and tremble before You. My world cannot be shaken. I bow my knee and confess before heaven and earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. I see creation, the sea and everything in it, the fields and all that is in them, exult. Even the trees of the forest shout for joy before the Lord, for Jesus is coming to judge. I give thanks, for You are good; Your faithful love endures forever. And when I sin, I plead, “Save me, God of my salvation; gather me and rescue me from this world so that I may give thanks to Your holy name and rejoice in Your praise.” May the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the God of His Church, be praised from everlasting to everlasting. And in Jesus name, through the Holy Spirit, I pray, hallelujah and amen.
Do you remember a time when you felt free from the weight of pain, guilt and doubt?
Prayer Challenge: Pray this, or make it your own by adding your personal praise.
Be honest, do we ever tire of praying? Are there times we think don’t need prayer? Sometimes getting tired of praying shows how much we still need to pray.
God blessing David in battle (1 Chronicles 14) is also told in 2 Samuel 5. When the Philistines hear David is king, they decide to attack. When David hears of this, he inquires of the LORD, “Should I go to war against the Philistines? Will You hand them over to me?” (14.10). God answers, “Go, and I will hand them over to you.” The battle is authorized and blessed.
Victory is Israel’s! David memorializes by changing the name of the battle scene to “Baal-perazim,” meaning “the Lord Bursts Out;” because “Like a bursting flood, God has used me to burst out against my enemies” (14.11). Seeing the name “Baal” used for God might be disconcerting; but here it simply means “master” and not the pagan god. Once again the Philistines raid in the valley, and once again David inquires of the God. This time God not only blesses and authorizes, He gives the battle strategy (14.13-15). Oh how good it is to have God on our side! That’s what prayer does!
What strikes me as more than coincidental is a running theme through chapters 13-15. Remember, David renames the field of battle to “the Lord Bursts Out” and in Hebrew, Baal-perazim. In 1 Chronicles 13, David runs afoul of God by not inquiring of the Lord, and moves the Ark in a sinful, unauthorized, unblessed way. The result is God striking dead Uzzah. David gets mad at God and renames that place too, Perez-uzzah meaning, “Outburst Against Uzzah.” Can you see the similarities between the meanings and the Hebrew? “Bursts Out” and “Outburst.” “Baal-perazim” and “Perez-uzzah.”
When coming to 1 Chronicles 15, David and Israel are moving God’s Ark again. This time David says, “You are the heads of the Levite families. You and your relatives must consecrate yourselves so that you may bring the ark of the LORD God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. For the LORD our God burst out (emphasis mine) in anger against us because you Levites were not with us the first time, for we didn’t inquire of Him about the proper procedures” (15.12-13).
What is the Chronicler teaching? Don’t make a move without inquiring of the Lord. It is better that God burst out against our enemies for us, than against us.
I don’t know if David got tired of praying and didn’t think it necessary when moving the Ark. But I do know he didn’t make a move in either battle without inquiring of the Lord. Never tire of bursting out in prayer!
Prayer Challenge: Examine through prayer and meditation as to why we don’t pray. Can we find times God burst out negatively towards us because we didn’t inquire of Him?
How often do we utter our utter exasperation about who we worship to any who will listen? Complaining about God is as old as Satan’s serpent. David moving the Ark of the Covenant and the sin of Uzzah is a story that is easy not to like. David doesn’t.
David’s goal is good, the motive worthy, the method is, well, that is the problem. The goal is to bring God’s Ark to Jerusalem. The motive is to correct the wrongs of the past: “we did not inquire of the Him in Saul’s days” (1 Chronicles 13.3); and to get closer to God. David even couches the proposal as providential, “if this from the LORD our God” (13.2). Everything happens either because God approves or allows it to happen. God approves the Ark being moved. God doesn’t approve but allows how it will be done.
People never have liked the idea of “unscriptural.” Defending their desires, they declare, “That’s just your interpretation,” or “there are various interpretations.” Well, that is correct; there are various ones, and if they aren’t the right interpretation, then they are wrong! God has a right way which is His way; and man’s way is the wrong way.
“At Abinadab’s house they set the ark of God on a new cart. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart” (13.7). The last time the Ark of the Covenant got moved was before Saul was king, over 40 years ago, during the time of the judges. Immediately before that the Philistines had captured the Ark in battle as Israel misused it as a talisman (1 Samuel 6). The Philistines eventually sent it back on a cart pulled by cows after being plagued by God. They didn’t know any better. Under David, the Israelites repeat the paganistic, unscriptural method. God commanded His priests and Levites to move the Ark, not beasts (Exodus 25.12-14; 1 Kings 8.3). What’s the difference? God is the difference! God’s people borrowing from the world is as old as the world. Israel is imitating pagans, and yet God is amazingly patient. He doesn’t immediately strike everyone involved dead. He doesn’t react until Uzzah reaches out his hand and touches the Ark. God promised death would be the punishment; but either they forgot, or didn’t think God’s way important (Numbers 7.9). After all, sincerity is enough, right?
This brings us to David’s reaction: “David was angry because of the LORD’s outburst against Uzzah” (13.11). Is David mad at himself? No. How about at Uzzah? No again. David is mad at God because God did exactly what God said He would do if disobeyed! Let that sink in. So what does David do next? He feels sorry for himself: “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” (13.12). Simple, obey God! Now notice how easily we can turn David’s complaint into a sincere prayer: “How can I bring the Ark of God to me?” David is known for inquiring of the Lord, but here he does not. Going around complaining about God is not praying although we are talking about God. And don’t let this one little fact escape our notice. God even hears those non-prayers.
Prayer Challenge: Obey; and when we mess up, pray instead of complaining.