God's graciousness

God doesn't destroy His enemies.

God doesn't destroy His enemies.

2 Chronicles 1

I think this is one of the neatest stories in the Bible. Solomon asks for what is most important—and ends up receiving everything that is most important as well as all the "perks." It always reminds me of what Jesus told His disciples: "But seek first [God's] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt 6:33)

God exalts others.

God exalts others.

1 Chronicles 29

1 Chronicles 29 recounts the story of David’s "passing the baton" to his son Solomon. In his final speech, he challenged Solomon and the people to remain true to the Lord, and then there was a large celebration with music, feasting, and joy. But tucked away into the description of the festivities was, I thought, a very important lesson about God.

God understands you.

1 Chronicles 28

If I had ever believed in the theory of evolution, I'm pretty sure my first pregnancy would have blown that belief out of the water. As I went through that experience, week by week, I marveled at the little life unfolding in my own body. From the heart that is fully functional and begins to beat by five weeks to the whole development process, it was very hard for me to understand how people (especially doctors who know the intricacies of pregnancy) could believe that there is no design involved in human development.

Beyond those considerations, one of the problems with believing in evolution is that it erases the idea of a personal God who knows you, who knew you even before you were born. Maybe some people aren’t comfortable with the idea of such a personal God; is it a more palatable idea to think that there is no purpose to our existence? That we’re just random accidents and that there’s no meaning behind where we came from or where we’re going?

Photo © Unsplash/Tai’s Captures

Photo © Unsplash/Tai’s Captures

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe that, and David certainly didn’t believe it either. In his final charge to Solomon, he challenged him to remember God: "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought." (vs 9)

Is that a comforting thought to you? It certainly is to me. God knows you. And it’s more than just knowing who you are or knowing your name or recognizing your face. He knows you even better than you know yourself. He understands the inner workings of your mind. He understands where your every desire comes from and hears every thought you have.

In addition to that—and probably best of all—He is gracious and merciful and sympathetic. You know, we’re all messed up. And the fact that He understands the intricate workings of your heart only makes Him more compassionate toward you. He doesn’t use this intimate knowledge as ammunition against you. On the contrary, because He understands you so completely, He is the one who is in a position to help you. And He wants to help you.

The only thing that surpasses God’s knowledge of you is His love for you. He knows every hair on your head, He hears every cry of your heart, and He loves every bit of you!

Photo © Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

Photo © Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

God is the best choice.

1 Chronicles 21

Even after David repented of his sin involving Bathsheba and Uriah, he was still struggling with the issue of being in control as king. Thus, though he knew he shouldn’t do it, he asked Joab to take a census of the army. Joab was disgusted by the request, but did it anyway. For some reason, David apparently wasn’t ready to place his full trust back in the Lord, and he wanted to make sure he could "walk softly and carry a big army" ...just in case.

When it came time for God to discipline David for this error, He gave David some options: "Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel." (vs 11-12)

Photo © Unsplash/Robert Anasch

Photo © Unsplash/Robert Anasch

Which would you have chosen? It didn’t take very long for David to make up his mind: "I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands." (vs 13)

You see, no matter what we’ve done, God is always the best choice. Being in His hands is the safest place in the universe to be—whether we are saved or lost. You will never find more mercy and compassion outside of God, and David knew that. He was well-versed in Israel’s history and Israel’s God, and he must have been very familiar with the famous self-description God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai: "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." (Ex 34:6-7)

There is no better place to be than in God’s hands—even when those hands contain discipline for our sinfulness. Nobody loves us more than God, and so nobody will ever treat us better than God. He is always the best choice!

Photo © Unsplash/Vladislav Babienko

Photo © Unsplash/Vladislav Babienko

One-Hit Wonder {ex17:1-6}

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"Israel drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them,
and that rock was Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:4

God gives.
He doesn't know how to do anything else.
He gives rain to the righteous
        and rain to the wicked.
He gives water to the grateful
        and water to the complainers.

God is good.
He doesn't know how to be anything else.
If you are good to Him,
        He will be good to you.
If you are evil to Him,
        He will be good to you.

Moses struck the rock
with his rod at Meribah
and life-giving water flowed out.

We strike the Rock and
Life is still the thing
that gushes out after us,
a flood of grace
        to meet our anger,
a deluge of mercy
        to defy our shame,
a surge of good
        to repay our evil.

 

God shows kindness to evil people.

God shows kindness to evil people.

2 Kings 13

Such a familiar refrain to begin this chapter: "In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son." (vs 1-3)

God doesn't restrict His representatives' freedom.

God doesn't restrict His representatives' freedom.

2 Kings 10

The new king of the Northern Kingdom, Jehu, had been specifically commissioned by God for a special purpose: "You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel." (2 Kings 9:7) And, as we saw in the last chapter, Jehu set out to do his job with zeal.

God's mercy doesn't always change hearts.

God's mercy doesn't always change hearts.

2 Kings 6

During all the years of the American-led war on terror, there have often been debates about how best to bring change to the Middle East—particularly about how to change the hearts and minds of those who seem intent on destroying Western culture and peoples. Many think it is wrong for us to use military force to accomplish these goals, and they offer other solutions instead, ranging from outright ignoring the problem to pacifism or targeted kindness.

God brings life to dead places.

God brings life to dead places.

2 Kings 2

God is life. No matter how barren a place, no matter how dead, His Spirit can bring new life. At least, that’s what we see happening in this chapter of 2 Kings: "The people of [Jericho] said to Elisha, 'Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.' 'Bring me a new bowl,' he said, 'and put salt in it.' So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, 'This is what the Lord says: "I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive."' And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken." (vs 19-22)

God doesn't easily give up.

God doesn't easily give up.

1 Kings 20

Ahab has to be the most wicked king in Israel’s history. So that’s why I found it interesting that, in this chapter, God is still trying to get through to him. I mean, if I didn’t know that God was a total genius, there could be times when I might think that He was a little thick. But I just don’t think He can help Himself. When He sees an opening, He takes it.

God allows Himself to be eclipsed.

God allows Himself to be eclipsed.

1 Kings 7

Well, now that King Solomon has built a temple for the Lord, he decides to continue building. After all, it’s important for him to have a place to live, right? Perhaps if he hadn’t made his palace so big, he wouldn’t have felt the need to fill it up with 1000 women! But, for me, the size of Solomon’s palace was the interesting thing in this chapter. Given its dimensions, did you realize that Solomon’s palace was more than four times larger than the temple He built for God?

God loves those who hate Him.

God loves those who hate Him.

You love those who hate you! This was the accusation Joab leveled at David after the big battle where David’s son Absalom was killed. David was absolutely devastated by Absalom’s death, so instead of celebrating the victory of his "enemy," David returned home, weeping over the loss of his child. Apparently, Joab didn’t like that:

God speaks well of us.

God speaks well of us.

2 SAMUEL 1

Here again, I think David shows us a glimpse of God’s heart in the sad song he penned following the death of Saul and Jonathan. "Saul and Jonathan—in life they were loved and admired, and in death they were not parted. They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold." (vs 23-24)

God is good to everyone.

God is good to everyone.

1 SAMUEL 30

I love seeing these glimpses of God’s heart flash through in the life of David. From this chapter: "Along the way [David's men] found an Egyptian man in a field and brought him to David. They gave him some bread to eat and water to drink. They also gave him part of a fig cake and two clusters of raisins, for he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for three days and nights. Before long his strength returned. 'To whom do you belong, and where do you come from?' David asked him. 'I am an Egyptian—the slave of an Amalekite,' he replied. 'My master abandoned me three days ago because I was sick. We were on our way back from raiding the Kerethites in the Negev, the territory of Judah, and the land of Caleb, and we had just burned Ziklag.'" (vs 11-14)

Learned Graciousness {gn50:14-21}

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At the end
of the genesis
we come to this:

our fears
in the mouths
of the brothers—

will there be a grudge
what if we aren't forgiven
maybe we need to offer
an incentive
in order to be eligible
for grace

and God
in the face
of Joseph—

weeping over the fear
promising provision
assuring that everything
which had been done
for evil has been turned
for good

After all this time
are you still
afraid?
asked Joseph

asks God

It is not possible
that Joseph was more
gracious
than his creator.

 

The Blessed Curse {gn49:7}

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The sobering fact of life is that our
descendants usually bear their share
of our decisions—either good or bad.
Levi couldn't bend his temper to his
will, and his curse was to
be doled out to his children—who would be
scattered, without a land inheritance,
among their relatives. But
the curse turned into a blessing for the entire
nation, as the Levites became the radiated advocates
of God. They inherited the heart-land of
Israel, permanent tillers of her spiritual soil.

 

God is not a sore loser.

God is not a sore loser.

1 SAMUEL 11

You know, it’s hard not to think of David when we read about Saul. Knowing how the story is going to unfold, and knowing that it’s David (not Saul) who was eventually called “a man after God’s own heart,” it is hard for me to let Saul’s story just be Saul’s story. Somehow, it always just feels like the prolonged prelude to the story of David. And, in many ways, perhaps it is.

God cares about the things that matter to us.

God cares about the things that matter to us.

1 SAMUEL 1

In 1 Samuel chapter 1, there is an interesting story of a man with two unhappy wives. Both were blessed in different ways, but neither was happy with their blessings. Instead, they wanted what they didn’t have. Hannah, the eventual star of the story, had her husband’s heart and affections. Whenever the family was dining together at the temple, Elkanah gave Hannah "a double portion because he loved her." (vs 5) He showed this affection to her even though she was barren. Of course, Hannah was distraught over the fact that she had no children. For women of that time, a childless existence was usually accompanied with feelings of shame and guilt.