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?

A Good History?

Day 136

Prayer for the day

Let us bless the LORD, from this time forth for evermore. Hallelujah!

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 1-3, John 5:25-47

The people of Israel had a long history. We’ve talked about that history before. They were proud of their long history, despite its ups and downs. They were a people with a solid legacy, a people who had come from what they saw as good stock.

They Israelites did more than take pride in their history: they sought their salvation in their history. The list of people in Chronicles is not meant to be salvific in and of itself, but taken with Israel history, it took on a kind of totemic power for them.

Jesus ran into this power more than once in the people he loved and ministered to. They constantly referred to Abraham, their father, to Moses, their inheritance. They regularly protested that they must be treated well because of their ancestry. They believed that the judgment of God dare not fall ont hem because of their illustrious lineage.

Jesus disabused the religious leaders of this notion, teaching instead that the full-fledged and whole-hearted belief in him and in the one who sent him were the only means by which a proud people might be made humble, and in that humility, might be saved.

God, Jesus claimed, was not impressed with claims of ancestry or lineage, but required instead that his people learn their true identity. They were not children of Moses or of Abraham. In order to be the people of God, they needed to understand that by believing in Jesus and in the Father who sent him, they were children of God.

Their true lineage, as believers, did not rely on the righteousness of their ancestors, but instead gave them the right to inherit what God had in store for them.

All that was required, all that is required, is to live as a child of God.

Crossing Over

Day 135

Prayer for the day

Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause; you set me free when I am hard-pressed; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

Scripture for the day

2 Kings 24-25, John 5:1-24

Jesus says that everyone who believes in Jesus, everyone who believes in the Father who sent Jesus, pass over from death to life. The insinuation Jesus is making is that those who have yet to believe in him are living a life that is moving toward death. They are living in the “kingdom of death” which means that those in the kingdom are the ones who are dying.

The kingdom of life that Jesus is presenting, the kingdom that Jesus is inaugurating is the kingdom of eternal life. This is not simply the kingdom in the world to come, but this is the kingdom of life that begins now. This is the kingdom that Jesus’ life begins, Jesus’ life which shows those who live in the kingdom how to live.

The people of Judah (and the people of Israel) lived in the kingdom of life, the kingdom of the people who follow God and live in his revelation. Their life in the kingdom of life was created by God to give them the abundant life that Jesus talks about in the Second Testament.

They move from the kingdom of life, in rebellion, to the kingdom of death. Instead of living the life that God destined them for, instead of following the God who had given them life, the kingdom of life, they descend into the kingdom of death.

The people of Judah and Israel rebel against God and transition their loyalty, moving from the kingdom of life that God created for them to the kingdom of death. Jesus reverses the trend from life to death, Jesus inverts the movement.

In believing in Christ, in following God, in moving toward the God of the universe, Jesus says we move toward the kingdom of life.

It’s a move he offers to us all.

Revival

Day 134

Prayer for the day

Taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are they who trust in him!

Scripture for the day

2 Kings 22-23, John 4:31-54

Nothing is so beautiful as the turning of a people back to the God they’d all but forgotten. The story of Josiah in the First Testament is always a favorite because of its beauty, its power, but mostly, because of its transformative nature.

In the story of Josiah, a young man becomes king and in the course of his desire to restore the cultic centre of Israel (or Judah), his people stumble upon the long lost law, which has been so badly broken that it is basically forgotten. This forgotten book of the law engenders in the people who hear it, first the king and later the country, such an incredible repentance, such a beautiful contrition that the nation seems to turn 180 degrees.

Finally, the people have given up (for a time) their prostitution, their infidelity, and have turned back to their first love. They recapture a love for the God they had all but forgotten.

We find the same kind of story in the Second Testament. A village in the country of Samaria (which if you’ve been reading in your First Testament, was part of the people of Israel) is revolutionized by the testimony of a woman and the coming of Jesus to speak with them. They are revitalized, they reconnect, they recommit to a God whom they also have largely forgotten.

It’s amazing that God can work this kind of reconciliatory effort in people who have largely forgotten who he is and if they’ve not forgotten who, at least how to worship and serve him. But that’s the God we serve, the God who does not simply cast aside, but who longs for hearts to turn back to Him in love and care and obedience. Let us bring joy to his heart!

Knowing and Doing

Day 133

Prayer for the day

How glorious you are! more splendid than the everlasting mountains!

Scripture for the day

2 Kings 19-21, John 4:1-30

Omniscience is one of the regularly cited traits of YHWH God. Omniscience is the divine attribute of being all-knowing. Almost any conception of God, modern or otherwise, has some kind of understanding of the all-knowing-ness of God. God is the one who knows what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. Some people argue about whether or not God causes all those things or if God simply knows all those things, and whether knowing is truly causal (philosophically). Regardless of the philosophical arguments, the omniscience of God is one of the clearest doctrines in Scripture (arguably – and people will!).

What we see in the story of Hezekiah and in his fight with the Assyrians is that while God is certainly all-knowing, that knowledge is put into action regularly. This is not a distant, watch-maker God who wound up the universe and just lets it spin. This is the God who knows what will happen, and who doesn’t just sit there and watch, but ACTS. This is the God who DOES!

In fact, Hezekiah doesn’t have to lift a finger to subdue or destroy his enemy. God simply commands, and the angel of death visits the enemy’s camp and destroys them, killing hundreds of thousands. The slaughter is brutal, but it is enacted by the God who knew everything that would happen and acted on behalf of his people.

Jesus knew much more about the woman at the well than any person should have or could have known. He talks about her having been married several times and the current relationship status. But Jesus doesn’t end the conversation where most of us probably would (“maybe try not sleeping with so many men”). Instead, Jesus takes the conversation and uses it as a transformative act. Jesus doesn’t just know, he doesn’t just see, he ACTS! And when he acts, when he speaks those transformative words, the woman’s life is flipped upside down and she’s changed!

Thank God we serve the one who does not JUST know, but the one who ACTS!

The World Loved Darkness

Day 132

Prayer for the day

Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

Scripture for the day

2 Kings 17-18, John 3:19-36

The coming of Christ, the Light, into the world was supposed to be something glorious, new, fantastic. It was supposed to be something that brought light to the darkest corner of the world, allowed humanity to be free from their enslavement to the darkness and move into the glorious light of God’s love and care. Yet even with the blinding shaft of light entering the darkness, there were still those who turned away from the light and covered their eyes and ears.

The light came as a wooing act of God, a desire to draw all people to himself by overcoming the indomitable effects of sin in our lives. Instead of embracing this burning light, though, people turned away, rejected the light and sought solace and joy in the darkness.

God had done similar wooing before. The call of God on the people of Israel was never-ending. He wooed, he loved, he chastened, he disciplined, he called, and yet the people constantly rebelled. Finally, not out of a desire to hurt, but out of a desire to finally show what the consequences of this kind of action will have to be, God cast Israel out of their land, and according to the scriptures, out of his presence. He allowed them to feel the abandonment of exile, so that they would feel even a modicum of the pain they had caused God by continually abandoning him.

This was not, however, a retributive punishment. This was still a restorative punishment, designed to teach the Israelites that their natural inclination toward rejecting God could actually destroy them as a people.

The coming of Jesus, like the exile, was painful. Both showed the people what could happen if they failed in their mission. Both showed what could be if they followed their God.

The choice still sits in front of us.

Condemned No More?

Day 131

Prayer for the day

O LORD, what are we that you should care for us? mere mortals that you should think of us? We are like a puff of wind; our days are like a passing shadow.

Scripture for the day

2 Kings 15-16, John 3:1-18

If you could say one thing about the First Testament kings, it’s that God had very specific opinions of them. They were either wonderful and did what was right int he eyes of YHWH or they continued in the sins of their fathers and were rejected by God. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of wiggle room back and forth. There was blessing or there was condemnation.

And, it seems, rightly so. The men who were supposed to be in charge of Israel and Judah did absolutely terrible things sometimes (sacrificing his son in the fire!!), and every once in awhile, they did wonderful things.

Interestingly, for John, Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.

It’s easy to misinterpret this verse and say that the First Testament is all about rules and judgement and the Second Testament is all about grace and mercy. Not at all. Instead, God continues to judge people (look at the sheep and the goats story!), but in that judgment, he allows for salvation. He allows for something incredible to happen even to those who we would consider heinously evil. God provides the life, the teachings, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus to help us understand that even though we will still be judged for our actions and our faith, we can rest secure in the knowledge that Jesus came to save us from that judgment by making us holy.

It is now up to us to live in that holiness, to rest in the life and death of Jesus, living into the new life of the resurrection. God loved the world, and he gave his son to save it!