Discretion and Understanding

Day 143

Prayer for the day

You have made me glad by your acts, O LORD; and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 22-24, John 8:28-59

If you have children like I do, you probably pray for them a lot! I know that I pray for my kids every day, that they would grow to love Jesus, that they would follow him all the days of their lives, that they would become beautiful men and women of God, and that they would be faithful in all their dealings with God and humanity. I pray they would be wise and discerning.

David had a similar prayer for his son, Solomon. David knew that God had conferred kingship on Solomon, and because of that knowledge, David begged God to give his son discretion and understanding, which are two attributes in short supply, both in First Testament times and today. Discretion is the ability to discern truth from lie, and understanding is the ability to take the truth and see its application in practical ways.

Jesus’ criticisms of the religious leaders run along similar lines as David’s prayer. His most biting words were that they did not really know the God they claimed to serve. They did not have discretion, in that they couldn’t discern the truth from the lie, and they lacked understanding. God’s emissary, God himself, was standing in front of them, telling them the truth about God the Father, about his plan, about his sending, about his mission, and about his character. And these men stood unbelieving in the presence of Jesus, claiming that he was all sorts of things (a Samaritan AND demon-possessed).

The lack of discretion and lack of understanding leads Jesus to charge the leaders with illegitimacy. He claims that they are not children of Abraham, children of God, as they claim, but are instead children of the enemy, because they refuse to recognize the things of the Father.

Blessed are those who have been gifted with discretion and understanding.

The Judge

Day 142

Prayer for the day

Make me understand the way of your commandments, that I may meditate on your marvelous works.

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 19-21, John 8:1-27

Judgmental. It’s what Christians are accused of all the time. Frankly, it’s what most of us are accused of most of the time! Jesus is clear, however, with the people around him, that while he doesn’t judge people, he has the authority to judge, because his authority comes from his Father.

Judgement seems to come naturally to us. We judge one another, place value judgements on one another. But when we see it happening in the First Testament, God is the one who is judging. And God is the able judge, the judge who is perfectly able to judge between good and evil, right and wrong.

The people of Israel were sinful, following a direction from David which was sinful, and God judged them as such. The judgement of God is severe, though he does relent, easing up after some significant punishment.

Even in righteous judgment, however, God shows his character clearly, as a merciful God.

Jesus is kneeling on the ground, writing, and he is given a choice by the religious leaders. They bring a woman who is caught in adultery. She is probably pulled from the scene of adultery, pulled away from her lover and dragged before Jesus. The law says she should be condemned. Notice that the man is nowhere to be seen.

And as Jesus looks at the woman, he calls on the leaders to stone the woman, to uphold the law. But he calls on the leaders to uphold the law by acknowledging that they’ve followed the law perfectly. Jesus is telling the religious leaders that unless they are capable of following the law, which obviously they’re not, they are unable to judge the woman.

And they leave. All of them.

How wise we would be to leave the judging to the Judge.

Proof

Day 141

Prayer for the day

Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding, according to your word. Let my supplication come before you; deliver me, according to your promise.

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 16-18, John 7:28-53

One of the strangest things about the life of Jesus as reported in the Second Testament is the fact that so many people doubt what he says in the face of extraordinarily convincing evidence. He performs signs and miracles, teaches with more authority than the scribes and teachers of the law, and has the general air of someone who knows what he is about, and that is the work of the Father.

Jesus offers the leaders and the crowds plenty of clear evidence that he is who he says he is, but they have a hard time believing him. Why is that?

On the other hand, King David seems so obviously blessed by God in his kingship, his military victories, and the many ways God gives him honour, that his favour in God is largely without doubt. Why is there such a distinct difference between Jesus’ reception by the religious leaders and David’s reception by the entirety of the nation of Israel?

There are many ways to answer these questions, some of which are fairly easy and some of which take a little more digging. It is my belief that the main difference between Jesus and David is not the scope of their miracles or conquests, and it is not the nature of their God’s favour in their lives. The major discrepancy and the major rationale for the differences between their receptions lies in the scope of their claims.

David was acclaimed king by the prophets, by God, by the priests, and by the people because of his conquests and because of his favour with God. Jesus was claiming so much more than kingship, and even the miracles he provided were not enough to convince the leaders that someone even greater than David had come.

That is not to say that no one recognized Jesus for who he was.

Blessed are those who recognize and receive well the king of kings.

Same Bat Time…

Day 140

Prayer for the day

Make me understand the way of your commandments, that I may meditate on your marvelous works.

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 13-15, John 7:1-27

Why does it seem that following God has to be so hard sometimes. Not only do we have to do the right things, but we have to do the right things the right way and at the right time. Shouldn’t there be some kind of “well-meaning” scale by which we can shortcut these strict requirements?

In our First Testament story, king David wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to bring back the Ark of the Covenant in order to ensure that the people of Israel were following the will of the God they were supposed to serve.

Yet in bringing the Ark back, David does not seek God’s will in HOW to bring it back, and so God is displeased. In fact, Uzzah is killed by YHWH because the Ark is supposed to be holy and he reaches out to steady the Ark, not wanting it to fall.

These kind of restrictions and requirements seem to us to be nit-picky in the extreme. Why doesn’t God allow a little bit of leeway in the treatment of His Ark?

Jesus provides us with an answer with his statement to his brothers that he is unwilling to enter the city during the festival at a certain time because the time is not yet right for him to be fully revealed. Jesus shows an awareness of the means and timetable of God, a supernatural ability to align his action with the purpose and timing of God.

The purpose of this “nit-picky” requirement of God is simply that God knows what is best. God’s standard for action, timing and means, is not difficulty in the First or Second Testaments because in both God gives clear-cut directions and guidelines. He is mysterious, yes, but largely the scriptures show us that God is clear in his desires and requirements. He is to be worshipped and served in a certain way, and communicates that way to his people when they inquire of him.

Glory be to God!

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Day 139

Prayer for the day

Our help is in the Name of the LORD; the maker of heaven and earth.

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 10-12, John 6:45-71

It’s fascinating to me that people who have committed their lives to Jesus in the Second Testament are so ready to leave his service once things are difficult or even confusing. When they hear something they don’t like, something that annoys them or doesn’t connect with their expectations they bail on Jesus for other waters.

It’s a funny mix. Some who leave Jesus are likely good-natured, well-intentioned people who simply are disappointed. Some who stay, like Judas, will eventually betray Jesus, yet he sticks with Jesus at the beginning.

The mix of the disciples, those who leave and those who stay, is a great indication to us of the modern follower of Jesus and God’s requirement. Some who are well-intentioned may fall away and some whose intentions are evil may continue to follow. It is not a good idea for us to judge early.

In the First Testament, with the death of Saul, a lot of ambiguity was introduced to the Israelite people. Who was their new king going to be? Who would rule them, lead them, create in them the kind of community they were supposed to be?

And then some declare their loyalty to David. He’s already been called or anointed as king by the prophet, but this declaration of loyalty is a finalization of what was begun before by God through the prophet.

David does what Jesus does in the same situation…he creates a covenant with the people, promising to lead them, guide them, in short, to be their king and ruler. Jesus, in accepting the twelve, promises to lead them, to guide them, and to be their king and ruler.

Jesus offers the same choice to his people today. Will you accept his covenant?

Something Big!

Day 138

Prayer for the day

In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free; incline your ear to me and save me.

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 7-9, John 6:22-44

I remember my younger years when I would go to camps and youth conferences. I remember the speakers would inevitably talk about how we all wanted to do something big for God, and how we would have to take risks and fully submit and dream big and not let the devil get a foothold and make sure we were in the centre of God’s will.

I remember all of that.

What I missed, I suppose, was the scriptural backing for the notion that God is always wanting to do “something big.” It seems like God’s idea of what he wants us to do is often much less grandiose than we believe.

In the First Testament story today, we read about a branch of the Levites whose job it was to guard the four entrances to the tent of meeting. That’s right, the “big” thing God wanted this entire family to be in charge of for generations was ensuring no unauthorized personel went in or out of the tent without the say-so of the head honchos.

The call of God placed upon these lives seems silly, mundane even, but God makes it clear that their allotment is no less important than the others!

In the Second Testament, Jesus is asked about the work that God would have his people do. It’s really the same struggle we see in Chronicles: What does God want me to do?

Jesus answers this question not in grandiose terms, not with statements about how God is going to want you to do something huge! He answers by saying that the work of those who follow God is to believe in the one who sent him. That is, the work of God, the work that God calls his followers to, is to live lives that evidence belief in God, the sending God who sent Jesus and who sends us to do that very work wherever we’re at.

Go, and do SOMETHING, big or small, for God!

What God Does

Day 137

Prayer for the day

I cry out to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 4-6, John 6:1-21

There is a small and easily “missable” sentence in the First Testament story today that describes one of the battles that is fought. It is not automatically obvious. There is nothing that makes it “jump off the page” but its significance cannot be overstated.

The story starts with the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh going to war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab.

They win, which is nothing to sneeze at, but nothing unusual either in the First Testament. Like usual, they call out to God in the midst of the battle, and as often happens, God allows them to win the battle. Not only does God allow them to win, but God conquers, because “the battle was God’s.”

The battle was God’s.

In the Second Testament story, there is no battle today. There is however a conflict between nature and supernature, and supernature wins out. The battle in the Second Testament also is God’s, and God wins it. Jesus walks across water, something that isn’t possible in natural terms. Thousands are fed from a little food. This also is impossible. The battles are God’s. And God wins.

In both stories, God owns the conflict, overcomes adversity, and triumphs. And in both stories, the foundation of this ownership is a fully trusting and fully devoted followership.

The First Testament story says that they trusted God. The Second Testament story proves that Jesus trusted God to supply their needs. In both, God acts not out of a sense of obligation or even out of a sense of pity, but out of a trust in His ability to handle the situation.

How different would our lives be if we believed that the battle truly did belong to God, and if we trusted God to own the battle?