choice

God's gifts can be squandered.

2 Chronicles 10

Today’s chapter reminded me somewhat of the story of the Prodigal Son—you know, the foolish boy who squandered the riches of his father’s estate. And since we looked yesterday at what an outrageous giver God is, I thought it might be prudent to add a P.S. today—that all of God’s gifts come with freedom. That means, if we are foolish enough, we can squander them all. What God gives, He doesn’t force us to keep or use wisely. We are free to do with His gifts what we want.

When Rehoboam succeeded his father as king, it didn’t take long to discover that he had inherited none of Solomon’s wisdom. In fact, one commentator (Dilday) observed that "with a dozen rash words, Rehoboam, the bungling dictator, opened the door for four hundred years of strife, weakness, and, eventually, the destruction of the entire nation." It didn’t take very much to totally destroy everything his father had built in Israel. His reign ushered in a phase of rebellion that split the nation, a rebellion from which it never recovered.

Photo © Unsplash/Paco S

Photo © Unsplash/Paco S

With all his wisdom and insight, it seems that Solomon foresaw this possibility, although it’s unknown whether he had his own son in mind when he wrote these words: "I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun." (Eccl 2:18-19) It seems Solomon accurately foretold the fate of Israel.

Rehoboam took everything his father had built and wasted it. He took all of the gifts God had blessed his family with and squandered them. And, although it may be hard for us to believe, God allowed him to do it, and He also allows us to do it. He does not cease to be generous, even if He knows we will squander what He has given us. He gives because He is a giver, not because He will force us to use those gifts in a way that is pleasing to Him. He doesn’t determine outcomes. He doesn’t dictate our behavior. He only determines His behavior.

Photo © Unsplash/freestocks.org

Photo © Unsplash/freestocks.org

God gives us the freedom to take what He’s given us and abuse it, if we wish. We can destroy His gifts, if we wish. There’s part of me that still doesn’t understand that, just as I don’t understand why the father of the Prodigal Son would finance his journey into the far country. The only thing I can say is that God loves to give, and He loves to give with no strings attached. Accepting His gifts doesn’t turn us into puppets. We are free, as Rehoboam was, to squander it all... if we’re that foolish.

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

God lets go.

God lets go.

1 Chronicles 10

Well, we made it through the genealogies. Now on to something a bit easier—or so I thought. As someone who is educated in the principles of journalism, I have to say that I encountered a bit of a problem in chapter 10 regarding the death of Saul. There are two seemingly-different accounts of his death within a few paragraphs of each other!

God is not a grandfather.

God is not a grandfather.

1 Chronicles 7

The more you read these genealogies, the closer you examine them, the more you will discover that there are certain, shall we say, discrepancies in them. This isn’t necessarily a problem, and neither is it necessarily surprising—considering that most all of these genealogies were passed down through oral tradition. Could you keep nearly four thousand years of genealogy straight without a computerized family tree?

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.

When the Heart Becomes a Black Hole {ex11}

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

by the time
God announced
the plague
on the firstborn
for the /second/ time
didn't Pharaoh know
God could and
would
do exactly
what He said

after the
blood
frogs
gnats
flies
dead livestock
boils
hail
locusts and
darkness
was there anything left
more dark
than Pharaoh's heart

how dark does it have to get
to not understand
that your opponent
controls
the very elements

-all of them-

didn't Pharaoh know
that if God said
his son was going to die
he would /in fact/
be planning a funeral
if he didn't
change course

why wouldn't you change course

in ancient egypt
the only person more important
than the firstborn son of the Pharaoh
was Pharaoh himself

why wouldn't you change course

is there anything
in this world
more powerful
than the human heart

is there anything
more capable
of being more implacable
than the heart
bent on rebellion

is there anything
more wild and dangerous
than the freedom to choose
and the power
it imparts

the power to
so harden ourselves
to truth
that /in the end/
we could sacrifice
what is most important
to us

and be ourselves
swallowed up by
allconsuming
darkness

 

All Hail {ex9:23}

Photo © Brian Gary

Photo © Brian Gary

A monstrous storm of hail
fell
such as Egypt had never seen before
and hasn’t seen since.

It smashed trees.
It smashed crops.
It smashed people and flocks.
It smashed everything it touched.

But the one thing it didn’t smash
was Pharaoh's implacable heart,
that dense little rock
beating in his chest.

God could undo Egypt,
but He couldn’t undo the king.

All hail the power
we’ve been given
to fortify or destroy
our own personal dynasties.

 

God gives us what we want.

God gives us what we want.

1 SAMUEL 28

Several years ago, Rob Bell wrote a book called Love Wins. It generated a lot of controversy by posing the question of whether or not there is an eternal hell. But the chapter I was most intrigued by was one that asked the question, Does God get what God wants? Bell didn’t provide an absolute answer, but he seemed to insinuate that (since God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of salvation) if everyone wasn’t saved, God wasn’t “great” enough to get what He wants. (At least, that’s what I understood him to be saying.)

God is not a legalist.

God is not a legalist.

1 SAMUEL 4

I found something in this chapter very interesting. It opens with the Israelites going to war against the Philistines. It didn’t go well. Thousands of Israelites were killed in the battle, and when they got back home, they wondered why they had met with such defeat. As a result, they decided that they would carry the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them the next time.

God does not overpower us.

God does not overpower us.

JUDGES 18

Judges 18 begins with a mantra that will repeat through the last several chapters of the book: "In those days Israel had no king." As you will discover (if you don’t already know what’s ahead in the next few chapters), this isn’t a good declaration. This isn’t a statement of freedom. Rather, it’s a statement of spiritual slavery. Israel had no king, no spiritual leadership, no direction, no moral compass. Everybody just did whatever they saw fit... and that always makes for a very scary scene.

God saves individuals.

God saves individuals.

JUDGES 9

Have you ever heard of collective salvation? It is how some people believe the human race is saved—not individually, but collectively; not personally, but as a community. If one is lost, all are lost. If one is saved, all are saved. I suppose it’s a nice idea, but I think it would be hard to make the case that God looks at us as one, big communal organism and not as individuals. Certainly, He wants everyone to be saved, but He’s not the only one who gets a say.

God has no grandchildren.

God has no grandchildren.

JUDGES 2

This text shocked me: "After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel." (vs 10)  What?! God finally had a generation of Israelites that He could take into the Promised Land.... and it only took one generation to unravel it all. Unbelievable.

God wants us to choose.

God wants us to choose.

JOSHUA 24

Here we find Joshua’s famous words to the Israelites: "Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (vs 14-15)

God lets us call the shots.

God lets us call the shots.

JOSHUA 9

I’m continually surprised by God as we comb our way through the Old Testament. I mean, who’s calling the shots, here? Didn’t God specifically say that the Israelites were not to make treaties with the people of Canaan? (Yes, He did, in Deuteronomy 7:2.) He told them not to have anything to do with them so they wouldn’t be in danger of picking up their idolatrous practices.

when What If comes too late {gn34}

Photo © Unsplash/Claudia Soraya

Photo © Unsplash/Claudia Soraya

"An eye for an eye" doesn't normally smack of grace,
but it would have been exceedingly merciful
compared to the revenge exacted by Dinah's brothers:
an entire community destroyed
because one person was brutally assaulted.

Some wonder
why they didn't choose
a different response—
something non-violent,
something conciliatory.
I wonder why they had to choose at all.

What was Jacob doing in Shechem?

He promised Esau a rendezvous in Seir;
instead, he traveled in the opposite direction.
He promised God an altar and a tithe at Bethel;
instead, he built that altar in a heathen place.

It's so easy to only ask
What If
when the Big Tragedy hits.

But
What if Jacob had kept his word?
What if he'd taken his family in the opposite direction?
What if he hadn't built his house in a dangerous and foreign land?

What if Genesis 34 tragedies
are always preceded by
Genesis 33 choices?

It's easy to say
Dinah shouldn't have been raped
or
Dinah's brothers shouldn't have retaliated
but I say
Dinah shouldn't have been there in the first place.

 

God is not arbitrary.

God is not arbitrary.

JOSHUA 2

So, once God saw that He had people who were bent on fighting, He issued orders that when they had conquered a heathen town, they were not supposed to leave anyone alive. If they were going to conquer it, they were going to conquer it all the way. We’ve examined some of those passages, and I must admit, they can seem a little perplexing.

God believes in choices.

God believes in choices.

DEUTERONOMY 11

What a great verse from today’s chapter: "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse — the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known." (vs 26-28)

God is not a manipulator.

God is not a manipulator.

NUMBERS 22

Here’s what I love about this chapter: it proves that God is not a manipulator. He’s not a control freak. He doesn’t stack His own deck. How do I know that? The story of Balaam shows just how few options God really had for "prophets." Prophets are the people who are supposed to be in tune with God, the ones who will listen to  Him. And what do we find in Numbers 22? A donkey was more attuned to God’s presence than Balaam: "When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road." (vs 23)