1 Chronicles 20:4-8

Battles Against the Philistine Giants

As many of you know, I am the pastor of a small church in rural northeastern South Carolina. It is a region of the state known as the Pee Dee region. The name comes from the major river that runs through the region, the Pee Dee River. The river and the region gained the name from the Indian tribe that once lived among the rich soil and swamps that dominate this region. Here, in the small farming community of Lamar, SC, I pastor Lamar United Methodist Church. Just as many small, rural towns in this part of the state, it is a town that is struggling with the effects of a changing world. It was once a vibrant, growing community all the way up until the early 1980s. Then, NAFTA took away a lot of the textile related jobs in the area to Mexico. Then, the demise of the vastly strong tobacco farming industry took its toll on the small town. It use to be a warehousing town for the area tobacco farmers. Tobacco would be stored here and readied for sale to tobacco brokers and tobacco companies. Additionally, as the need to cut costs in farming in an ever increasingly global farming market, job opportunities in farm labor began drying up as farm owners began to automate to reduce costs. The confluence of these events over the past thirty to forty years has left Lamar still proud of his once strong heritage but struggling to maintain the population base. Many who live here now work elsewhere. Many who grew up here often leave for opportunities in larger urban areas of the state. Thus, the population of the area in general is aging. My church is a microcosm of what is happening to the community.

The church that I serve is generally full of retired professional middle to upper middle class professionals. Most are retired educators. There are some that were in the corporate world in supervisory positions. Some are business owners. Most are well educated. Most are lifelong residents of this area. They are a wonderful group of people. They recognize what is happening to the church. We are aging right along with the community in which we find ourselves. Thus, the struggle has been watching the church slowly dissipate in its size over the past 20-25 years. Although the church is probably one of the most financially sound churches in the whole Pee Dee region given its size, the quietly shrinking population of the community and the church will one day threaten that strength. Add to that, the church really has not had a vision for itself for the future. As many smaller churches, sometimes, you just go to church because that’s the culture, that’s what has always been, so you just kind of float along without a real thing to get behind and get passionate about. As Solomon said in Proverbs 29, “without vision, the people perish!” You find this to be true in any organization in the secular world as well. Those companies that don’t have a clear vision of the future, a clear idea of where they want to head, they often falter and try to do so much that they end up doing nothing. Part of secular corporate visioneering is to figure out what you are good at and how that can meet a demand in your particular marketplace.

That’s been the struggle here for the past year that I have been assigned here is (1) changing the culture of “just going to church because that’s what we’ve always done” and (2) to figure out what is it exactly that we are good at as a church. The two thing that I believe God has called me here to do is (1) to reignite the passion of this church (where church is not just an add-on to life but the central thing that we are all passionate about) and (2) help them figure out what they are good at and spur them on to be that church. God grants each of His churches a specific gift – something that is unique about each church that is it forte, its bread and butter, its passion, its reason that it exists. Every church has a thing that it is collectively good at. Every church collectively has or should have a passion for some one main thing. They may serve the world in multiple ways, for sure, but there is always that one thing that God has collected a certain kind and group of people at each church to be really good at. That’s the thing we’ve got to figure out at Lamar UMC. What exactly is it that we are good at and let’s go do that. That then can help us draw even more people of that kind of mindset, that kind of passion into our midst and become really, really good at that thing that God has gifted our church in.

That’s the thing that I want to do here is to accomplish those two simple goals while I am here (ever how long God wants my wife and me to be here). Nothing else. Nothing more. Nothing less. To leave it better than I found it. To have lit the fires and focused the flames.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read 1 Chronicles 20:4-8 about the mighty men that were now slaying the giants, not just David. It demonstrates that David was investing in passing on his passion and his knowledge to the next generation of military leaders of Israel. David want to set his nation up for success in the future. That rang a bell with me. Let’s read this passage now:

4 After this, war broke out with the Philistines at Gezer. As they fought, Sibbecai from Hushah killed Saph,[a] a descendant of the giants,[b] and so the Philistines were subdued.

5 During another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath of Gath. The handle of Lahmi’s spear was as thick as a weaver’s beam!

6 In another battle with the Philistines at Gath, they encountered a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in all, who was also a descendant of the giants. 7 But when he defied and taunted Israel, he was killed by Jonathan, the son of David’s brother Shimea.

8 These Philistines were descendants of the giants of Gath, but David and his warriors killed them.

In this passage, we see that David, according to the information available in the parallel books of Samuel, is much older and nearing the end of his reign and his life, but yet he is still active. He may not have been the mighty warrior that he once was, but he was active in developing future leaders and securing a peaceful land for his son and successor, Solomon. As David grew weaker physically, he stayed strong spiritually and was also strong in wisdom. Instead of isolating himself – highly conscious of his weakness – he poured into others and continued to serve God greatly. He passed on his military and leadership skills to those who were going to serve his son.

Getting back to the application for me and for you then is that David knew what he was good at and passed that on to the next generation of military leaders that were going to serve his son. David wanted to make sure that he left Israel stronger than when he took over as king. He wanted to ensure its success. So in this day, in the 21st century, in Lamar, SC, at Lamar UMC, it is up to us to figure out what we are good at so that we can survive. We must understand our marketplace and focus the things that we are good at as a collective body of believers and do that. Looking at our church, we have such a treasure trove of bright, intellectual and experienced leaders, mainly in education, who have been there and done that in their careers. That’s what we are good at. We have educators, and former educators, and we have influencers in our community. We have an aging community that we serve. Thus, we must figure out how to express all that educational leadership and business leadership now in retirement into some kind of dymano for the Lord in our community. We must use those educational skills in our community to better the world of our community. We use those business leadership skills to think of ways to reinvent our town. We must be passionate first though. We must want to change the world of our community so that more people will be drawn into the gospel and to Jesus Christ by doing things that will help our community in ways that only Lamar UMC can do it. We must see that as the core of why we are here and not for church to be something nice that we do on Sundays. We must collectively use our strengths that God has abundantly gifted us with and use them to shape our town, to make it renewed and reinvigorated, so that more people will want to be here … so more people will then come to hear the gospel …. so more people will come to know Jesus Christ.

Be passionate. Know what you are good at. Not that it was bad in the first place but leave it in a better place than when you found it. That’s why God called all of us, pastor and congregation, to this church at this moment in time at this place.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 20:1-4

David Captures Rabbah

John F. Kennedy, considered by many these 60 years later as one of the seminal Presidents of the United States ever. He marked the changing of the guard from the old America to new America. He has been seen as a leader in the fight against institutional racism in our country. He is seen as the impetus from the grand push to end the Jim Crow South. He is also seen as the great impetus for our nation’s amazing push into outer space (does anyone seriously believe we would have reached the moon by 1969 if it were not for his inspiration). He is seen as a man that brought great hope to all of us as to the possibilities of us as a new and brighter America. He was the master speechmaker. He could inspire with his words. His speeches are legendary and his speeches (being the first president in the full flower of the television age) are remembered to this day. He inspired the entire generation of Baby Boomers to seek a better society than the one they inherited. His legacy as a great President and inspiring leader are things of legend. The fact that his life was cut short by an assassin’s series of bullets adds to his legend. He will forever be the young President full of hope and passion. He will forever be the President of the possibilities. He will forever be unseen potential. He will forever be the President of Camelot.

However, not to slight his potential as President in the years after his death if had not occurred or not to slight his three years and the things he pushed to accomplish during that time, but there were dark marks on his presidency. It was well-known that he was a Clinton-esque womanizer. The lengths that the secret service went to cover up his infidelities are still coming out. His indecisiveness as a leader led to the build up of arms by Russia in Cuba. That indecisiveness led to the confrontation of global nuclear proportions by the time he did act. That indecisiveness led to the botched Bay of Pigs invasion that ended up solidifying Castro’s hold on power in Cuba. He was responsible for the overthrow of the government in South Vietnam for a more easily led head of state. His ineffectiveness in leading his own people led to the Viet Cong rebels becoming stronger in the south and led North Vietnam to escalate it’s interest in taking over the south. He was behind the coup that led to the Shah taking over in Iran in 1963 and we know how that turned out 16 years later after the Shah’s notably oppressive reign. Kennedy is also seen as a great friend of the civil rights movement but he was slow to react to all of it. He was trying to play political games with the whole thing and trying to ensure his re-election in 1964. His slowness of implementing the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling caused it not to be truly implemented until 5 years after his death and 7 years in some places. So, as with any President, there is bad as much as there is good. Kennedy has the advantage of being the meteor that burned itself out in flashy, brilliant fashion. He was the president of unfulfilled potential and unfinished business. Had he not been cut down in his prime, what kind of President would he be remembered as now? Would he have even been re-elected in 1964? He barely won in 1960. Would he have suffered the stifling unpopularity that Johnson suffered under had Kennedy lived and won a second term? A lot of the things that Johnson gets hammered for were messes that were left for him by Kennedy. Would civil rights have had a slower pace in a second Kennedy term than they did after Kennedy died – and white America suffered a guilty conscious for the dreams that Kennedy only talked about but never seriously pushed.

It is good to honor the memory of what Kennedy could have been and for the inspiration that he was to change America. His death hastened all those things to come quicker than they would have otherwise. It was that idea of the purpose of the 1 Chronicles vs. 2 Samuel when you think about what was left out. It kind of reminds you of how we view President Kennedy 60 years later compared to the reality of his presidency. 1 Chronicles had a different purpose than 2 Samuel and that may have been why things were omitted in 1 Chronicles that appear in 2 Samuel. Let’s read this passage, 1 Chronicles 20:1-4, now with note for what’s not in there:

Chapter 20

1 In the spring of the year,[a] when kings normally go out to war, Joab led the Israelite army in successful attacks against the land of the Ammonites. In the process he laid siege to the city of Rabbah, attacking and destroying it. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

2 Then David went to Rabbah and removed the crown from the king’s head,[b] and it was placed on his own head. The crown was made of gold and set with gems, and he found that it weighed seventy-five pounds.[c] David took a vast amount of plunder from the city. 3 He also made slaves of the people of Rabbah and forced them to labor with saws, iron picks, and iron axes.[d] That is how David dealt with the people of all the Ammonite towns. Then David and all the army returned to Jerusalem.

In this passage, there is something noticeably absent to those of us who have read 2 Samuel prior to reading 1 Chronicles. It is the whole Bathsheba adultery/Uriah murder incident that engulfed King David and his kingdom. According to scholars, this story may have been excluded from 1 Chronicles because the book was written to focus on God’s long-term interest in Israel and the Temple as a symbol of God’s presence among them. In that light, the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12) did not fit this purpose. These scholars suppose, for that same reason, that Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 15-18) was omitted as well in 1 Chronicles.

The omission of the Bathesheba/Uriah incident was well-documented in the chronicle of its time, 2 Samuel. The Chronicles books were written much later, after the fall of the last half of the Israelite kingdom. It was written while the people were in exile in Babylon. They were defeated and destroyed. They knew full well that the Bathsheba incident started the cracks in the kingdom. They knew full well that the nation was destroyed from within by its own moral decay. Thus, to rehash one of the ugliest moments of the kingdom was of no real use to the purpose of 1 Chronicles. The books were to give the crushed Israelites hope for a return one day to the purpose God had given them as His people. To be reminded of what they already knew (that they had failed miserably before) did not help. As well, the history was already there in great detail in the Books of Samuel. Everyone knew that story. It is not as if the historians were trying to rewrite history. The books of Samuel had long been out there and everyone knew that period of David’s life. It’s not like the managed perception of Kennedy while he was president or any President since him. There was no covering up the truth as revealed in the books of Samuel. It was there hanging out like dirty laundry.

However, the purpose of 1 Chronicles was to give hope to a hopeless people. The retelling here of an already documented story was unnecessary to the point of giving hope. They wanted to remember the grandeur of what they used to be and what they could have been had they followed God. David was known as a man after God’s own heart. He was not perfect. He made mistakes, but he was always quick to confess them, and repent. That’s what we, even now, remember about David – not so much his imperfections but that he was a man after God’s own heart.

It is the same I think with Kennedy. He had a lot of imperfections as a man and as a politician. But we remember about him is the things he inspired us to do. He called us to do great things. And because he called us to do them when no one else would, we did them to honor his good memory.

There’s a lesson for us in how we treat others as Christians. Let us dwell so much on the imperfections of others because none of us is perfect. We are all sinners in need of grace from a righteous God. Let us love the unlovable because God does. Let us forgive the imperfections in others. God does. Let us recognize repentance in others and not crucify them for their pasts once they have repented. Can we wipe the slate clean for them as Christ has done for us when we repent of our sins? There’s hope in that!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 19:1-19

David Defeats the Ammonites

The Back Story Makes It A Better Story

There is always a backstory and connecting the backstories in the Bible adds to the richness of our understanding of God’s Word. For example, without understanding who the Sadducees and the Pharisees were, what the Sanhedrin was in 1st century Jewish society, understanding the uneasy détente between the Jewish religious/civic leaders and the Roman occupation forces and government, you really can’t grasp the true richness of the story of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry as presented in the four gospels. So, here in this passage for today. The backstory is intriguing because the Bible itself does not fully connect the dots for us and we have to rely not only on it but also upon the Jewish religious/historical writings in the Talmud for additional background.

The first thing that you have to remember here was that, in general, the Israelites and the Ammonites did not like each other. The Ammonites were a Semitic people, closely related to the Israelites. Despite that relationship, they were more often counted enemies than friends. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was the progenitor of the Ammonites. After Abraham and Lot separated (Genesis 13), Lot settled in the city of Sodom. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness, Lot and his daughters fled to the hill country on the southern end of the Dead Sea. Probably thinking they were the only people left on the earth, Lot’s daughters got him drunk and had incestuous relations with him to produce children (Genesis 19:37-38). The older daughter had a son named Moab (“from father”), and the younger gave birth to Ben-Ammi (“son of my people”). The Ammonites, descendants of Ben-Ammi, were a nomadic people who lived in the territory of modern-day Jordan, and the name of the capital city, Amman, reflects the name of those ancient inhabitants.

Nahash and David were friendly with one another. David had no trouble out of the Ammonites while Nahash was the Ammonite king. Although Nahash was no great friend of Israel, he had shown kindness to David while David was on the run and Saul was king. So, while David and Nahash held their thrones at the same time, there was a time of peace between the Ammonites and the Israelites. Further, Some scholars believe David’s sisters, Abigail and Zeruiah, may have been his half-sisters and that their father was not Jesse but Nahash.

The book of 2 Samuel refers to Abigail as the daughter of Nahash: “Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Jether, an Israelite who had married Abigail, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab” (2 Samuel 17:25). Nahash was an Ammonite king (1 Samuel 11:1). Speculation suggests that David’s mother had been married to Nahash when she bore the half-sisters and then later became the second wife of Jesse. Further speculation implies that David’s mother was not yet married to Jesse when she became pregnant—that perhaps she was still married to Nahash when she conceived David. These theories could explain why David was not accepted by his family: “I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children” (Psalm 69:8). David was left to tend the flocks when the prophet Samuel invited all of Jesse’s sons to a sacrifice (1 Samuel 16:5). God had told Samuel that He would choose one of the sons to be anointed king, but the family never even considered David as a possibility (1 Samuel 16:11). The theories might also shed some light on Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (ESV).

This would explain the fondness that Nahash and David had for one another. They were was a link between them – David’s mom, if you believe the Jewish traditions in the Talmud (which are not considered by Christians to be divinely inspired, but rather human interpretations and historical information that supports the Old Testament record). When you consider though some of David’s comments in the Psalms about his ancestry, one may begin to think that there is some substance to the tradition as written in the Talmud. Since there was this fondness and this link between Nahash and David, then, as a result, David was going to extend the same kindness to Nahash’s son and successor to the Ammonite throne, Hanun. David’s logic was that if he was Nahash’s son, then, that’s good enough for me to continue good relations with the Ammonites.

The Current Story

As often happens with succeeding generations, the importance of events and relationships and so on that were oh so important to the previous generations, become less so for the succeeding generations. For example, we are now 75 years removed from the end of World War II, there are very few remaining heroes and civilians of that era that are still alive today. My granddaughter’s generation will most likely not care a hoot about the sacrifices that were made by our country and the people that were alive at that time. It is so far removed from their frame of reference it is simply not going to be an important event to them. Even the horrors of September 11, 2001 will not be as important to her as they are to me and to my granddaughter’s parents. Now, the pandemic of 2020 will be important to her. It will be examined for many years to come as to what it did to us as a society and so on. She will be interested in that. It’s in her frame of reference.

I think it is the same for Hanun. He did not know the whole backstory as we have presented it here. He had no attachments to David and his mom. He just knew the history of animosity between the two countries. He just knew as a king that you’re not supposed to “trust Greeks bearing gifts” as the old saying goes. That’s what’s going on here. Let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 19:1-19, now:

Chapter 19

1 Some time after this, King Nahash of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun[a] became king. 2 David said, “I am going to show loyalty to Hanun because his father, Nahash, was always loyal to me.” So David sent messengers to express sympathy to Hanun about his father’s death.

But when David’s ambassadors arrived in the land of Ammon, 3 the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, “Do you really think these men are coming here to honor your father? No! David has sent them to spy out the land so they can come in and conquer it!” 4 So Hanun seized David’s ambassadors and shaved them, cut off their robes at the buttocks, and sent them back to David in shame.

5 When David heard what had happened to the men, he sent messengers to tell them, “Stay at Jericho until your beards grow out, and then come back.” For they felt deep shame because of their appearance.

6 When the people of Ammon realized how seriously they had angered David, Hanun and the Ammonites sent 75,000 pounds[b] of silver to hire chariots and charioteers from Aram-naharaim, Aram-maacah, and Zobah. 7 They also hired 32,000 chariots and secured the support of the king of Maacah and his army. These forces camped at Medeba, where they were joined by the Ammonite troops that Hanun had recruited from his own towns. 8 When David heard about this, he sent Joab and all his warriors to fight them. 9 The Ammonite troops came out and drew up their battle lines at the entrance of the city, while the other kings positioned themselves to fight in the open fields.

10 When Joab saw that he would have to fight on both the front and the rear, he chose some of Israel’s elite troops and placed them under his personal command to fight the Arameans in the fields. 11 He left the rest of the army under the command of his brother Abishai, who was to attack the Ammonites. 12 “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then come over and help me,” Joab told his brother. “And if the Ammonites are too strong for you, I will help you. 13 Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. May the Lord’s will be done.”

14 When Joab and his troops attacked, the Arameans began to run away. 15 And when the Ammonites saw the Arameans running, they also ran from Abishai and retreated into the city. Then Joab returned to Jerusalem.

16 The Arameans now realized that they were no match for Israel, so they sent messengers and summoned additional Aramean troops from the other side of the Euphrates River.[c] These troops were under the command of Shobach,[d] the commander of Hadadezer’s forces.

17 When David heard what was happening, he mobilized all Israel, crossed the Jordan River, and positioned his troops in battle formation. Then David engaged the Arameans in battle, and they fought against him. 18 But again the Arameans fled from the Israelites. This time David’s forces killed 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers, including Shobach, the commander of their army. 19 When Hadadezer’s allies saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they surrendered to David and became his subjects. After that, the Arameans were no longer willing to help the Ammonites.

Scripture Analysis

In this passage, Hanun misread David’s intentions. He did not know the backstory, I guess, well enough to understand that David’s intentions were pure. Hanun was overly suspicious and brought disaster upon himself. Because of past experiences and a general distrust of others, we can end up questioning the real motives of those around us and second-guess their every move. While we should be “wise as serpents” and discern and study a situation, we must be “peaceful as doves” and not automatically assume others’ actions and motives for them are ill-intended (ref. Matt 10:16).

However, rather than admit his mistake and seek forgiveness and reconciliation, Hanun spent an enormous amount of money and other resources in pridefully covering up his error. His cover-up cost him dearly. It often costs more to cover up an error than to admit it honestly. Rather than compound an error through defensiveness, Hanun teaches us by his actions/errors that we should seek forgiveness and reconciliation as soon as we realize that we have made a mistake.

Takeaway

I think there are two for today. First, everybody’s got a backstory and it effects how we interact with the world around us. Most of the time, we do not consider other people’s backstories. We only see how they are coming at us and see it only as how it affects us. We only see a situation or conflict from our own perspective. Jesus knows our backstories but yet He accepts us and forgives us and makes us His own. We should not just see life from own view. If you are in conflict with someone, try to get to the bottom of why the person is coming at you the way that they are. There’s always more to it than the content of the conflict. There’s a process that has brought about the conflict. We need to love others enough to get to know their backstories so that we know what their triggers are, what’s important to them, what’s painful to them. Then, we can be more of Jesus to them than we are now. Second, from Hanun, we need to learn some humility and be willing to recognize when we are wrong and come out with it. We often make bigger messes of things when we try to cover up our mistakes. How much more will people actually end up respecting us when we admit that we are wrong and stop the flow of events caused by us not admitting it. In both these lessons, it’s about reconciliation. It’s about restoration. That’s what we as Christians are here for – the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). We are here to do whatever it takes to reconcile people to God. Conflict is of the devil. We must seek reconciliation. When people are reconciled to us, they are more likely to see and hear Jesus than when they are in conflict. Conflict is Satan’s white noise that keeps us from hearing Jesus.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 8:1-17

David’s Military Victories

Do you have more month than you have money? Is it always a struggle every month to pay your bills? Do you often have to pick and choose what to pay and what not to pay instead of just paying it all? Do you complain about it? Are you frustrated by it and does it cause friction in your relationship? But yet, look outside. We claim that we HAD to have both of those brand new cars (and the payments that go with them!). As you sit outside on the back porch this mid-spring day and sip your fresh-brewed fancy starbucks for home coffee and your back porch has all the finest porch furniture and plants. It just looks so perfect. There’s a pool just beyond the porch that was a big chunk of change. You look back at your house. It is over 3,000 square feet of space. It is a modern classical house. The finest brick. The appliances in the kitchen would put any of HGTV’s home makeovers to shame. The living room has the latest in audio and visual technologies. It is an entertainment paradise. None of it was cheap. The bedrooms are spacious with the finest furniture for you and your family. The dining area is the latest in chic in-home dining. Beyond that is the laundry/mudroom with all the latest in laundry technology. The door locks to the house and security system are all on-demand video enhanced tech gadgets. You look again out back at the specially built detached garage that your husband built. Inside it you see the four-wheelers, the jet skis and the boat. On the coffee table beside you, there are bills from the beach house including the mortgage on it. But yet, life is a struggle. We have more things that require upkeep and payments than we have money. But, hey, this is the way life is supposed to be. This is what we wanted. This is the American dream. To have all the stuff, right?

However, do you feel like that your stuff rules you. Do you look back at your parents and grandparents and wonder how your mom or your grandmom got to stay home and raise the kids and keep the house but you are having to be a mom and work a 40-60 hour a week job too. And between you and your husband making two incomes, there just never seems to be enough money to go around. Do you think that at some point in the future y’all will get ahead of the endless cycle of swimming upstream against the bills vs. money thing? Do you long for a day when you as a mommy can choose to work or not rather than it being an absolute necessity? We you are not alone in this picture that I just painted. Most American moms live the same life. On the outside it looks like you have everything that you could ever ask for, beautiful house (inside and out), new cars, all the latest recreational toys, a pool in the backyard, a beach house, you name it. But it’s a tense struggle of staying ahead of all the bills that almost completely sucks the joy out of life.

That rat race cycle of life is what I thought about when I read about how David handled the spoils of victory. It was the complete opposite of what most of us would do. Most of us when we get a sudden windfall of money, we blow it on something extravagant. David took it and put it to use for the Lord. With that idea in mind along with the American Dream rat race, let’s read 1 Chronicles 18:1-17 together right now:

Chapter 18

1 In the course of time, David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and he took Gath and its surrounding villages from the control of the Philistines.

2 David also defeated the Moabites, and they became subject to him and brought him tribute.

3 Moreover, David defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah, in the vicinity of Hamath, when he went to set up his monument at[a] the Euphrates River. 4 David captured a thousand of his chariots, seven thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses.

5 When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down twenty-two thousand of them. 6 He put garrisons in the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, and the Arameans became subject to him and brought him tribute. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.

7 David took the gold shields carried by the officers of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 From Tebah[b] and Kun, towns that belonged to Hadadezer, David took a great quantity of bronze, which Solomon used to make the bronze Sea, the pillars and various bronze articles.

9 When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer king of Zobah, 10 he sent his son Hadoram to King David to greet him and congratulate him on his victory in battle over Hadadezer, who had been at war with Tou. Hadoram brought all kinds of articles of gold, of silver and of bronze.

11 King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold he had taken from all these nations: Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek.

12 Abishai son of Zeruiah struck down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 13 He put garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.

14 David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people. 15 Joab son of Zeruiah was over the army; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 16 Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelek[c] son of Abiathar were priests; Shavsha was secretary; 17 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief officials at the king’s side.

In this passage, we see the list of battles that David won. It shows how God gave David victory after victory. Those who do not love God in the way that David does often think that our victories whether it be in our personal life or our careers are a result of our own skill and maybe a little luck. However, David always acknowledged God’s role in his success. Additionally, these sentiments were not just words to David. He took action on them as well. Whenever there was plunder from victory or tribute paid by a subdued kingdom, he would dedicate the spoils of victory to the Lord. These goods and currency were used for the glory of God. It is often easy for us to think of our material blessings are the result of our own ingenuity, skill and/or hard work rather than coming from God. Realizing that God is the source of our ingenuity, skill and ability to work, we should dedicate all of our resources to His glory. We should arrange our lives in such a way that money does not rule us and allow us to give generously to our Lord and to better the lives of those around us.

Getting back to my illustration now. Why is it that we have succumbed to the lie that we have to have all these things to be happy. And we are training our kids that this is the way it’s supposed to be as well, so that adds additional fuel to the fire. Why is it that we go down this road. Almost every American does and we do not even realize it until we are swimming in debt to the point that it swallows us or we get divorced or we lose our job. Let us stop the madness right now. Let us begin to put God first in our finances like David did here in this passage.

Let us use our tax refunds not to spend on frivolities but to pay down and pay off debts such as cars, boats, second properties, and so on. Let us use bonuses to do the same thing including paying of outstanding credit cards. Let us then get our bills under our incomes. Let us shoot for getting our bills under 90% of our income. Let us then begin tithing 10% to our church. Let us continue to getting those bills under control such that all our bills can be paid by your husband’s income and then allow you, the mom, the one who makes the family run, to work outside the home (1) to build a nest egg for the future or (2) stay home and run the family full-time. Let us then live simply. Let us then pay of the cars and keep them in tip top running condition instead of buying new ones every 2-3 years. Let us take a breath and exhale. Let us live where we can be generous to the Lord like David. Let us live simply where we can be generous to those in need in our sphere of influence when the situation calls for it. Let us be able to be a blessing to others financially when the Lord leads us to it. Help us to stop the craziness of the rat race that is the American Dream! Live Simply. Love The Lord. Be Generous.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 17:16-27 (Part 2 of 2)

David’s Prayer of Thanks

There was an old song by Montell Jordan back when my kids were in elementary school and they just loved it. It was called “This Is How We Do It”. That phrase is what came to mind when I read through this passage. It was a phrase that stuck in my head for “this is how we do it” in the way that we often pray. Conversely, “this is how we do it” is also the way that we should pray when we read how David prays.

Oh, God, I wish you would…, Oh, God, please give me…, Oh God, I need…, does this sound familiar? This pattern is often, most often, how we begin our prayers. I admit it. I am not exempt from this statement. We often come at God like a blitzkrieg bombing raid by the Germans over London during the middle of World War II. Prayer bombs falling all over the place. We begin our prayers by immediately setting off on to a list of things we want and need. We act as though God is our vending machine or puppet that is supposed to dispense solutions for us on demand. We get angry or disappointed when God does not serve up the menu requests that we have made and serve them as we had ordered them. My own heart is being convicted like crazy as I type these words. Maybe, you are too. We all get the prayer system messed up.

I know that often when I pray, I just plow right in and start telling God what I want and what I need. God, please help us reawaken a spiritual hunger in our church to reach the unchurched in our community. God, please help me figure out ways to get younger couples into our church. God, please help me to figure out ways to truly connect with the youth group at our church. God, please help me figure out ways to light the missions and outreach passion of our church.  God, please help me figure out ways to do this or do that in my church. And those are just my prayers about my professional life as a pastor of a local church. My personal prayers are filled with as much or more, I’s, me’s, and my’s and the things I want. During football season, I pray for Tiger victories when it’s a close game or victory is in doubt. Are you that way, too? Are your prayers as self-centered as mine? Are we alone in this?

We can get answer to that last question by looking at the results of a survey about prayer. A 2014 survey by LifeWay Research (see article at https://baptistnews.com/article/self-centered-prayers-no-surprise-to-american-pastors/#.XrFXyJl7nIU) showed that:

  • When asked what they typically pray for, 82 percent of respondents said for “family and friends,” followed by “my own problems and difficulties” at 72 percent.
  • Good things that have happened (54 percent) was next, followed by “my own sin” (42 percent). Victims of natural disasters (38 percent), God’s greatness (37 percent) and their own “future prosperity” (36 percent) were other categories.
  • The survey also asked those who pray if they have ever prayed for specific kinds of people or events.
  • Some — 41 percent — said they have prayed for people who mistreat them, while 37 percent said they had prayed for their enemies.
  • Twenty-one percent said they have prayed for winning lottery tickets and 13 percent for their favorite teams to win games.

Why do I indict myself and possibly you the reader of this blog this morning? Well, it’s because there is a stark difference between how David prays here in this passage and how we typically pray. That’s the thing I thought of this morning as I read this passage, 1 Chronicles 17:16-27. Let’s read it together now:

16 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 17 And as if this were not enough in your sight, my God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You, Lord God, have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men.

18 “What more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant, 19 Lord. For the sake of your servant and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made known all these great promises.

20 “There is no one like you, Lord, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 21 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth whose God went out to redeem a people for himself, and to make a name for yourself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 22 You made your people Israel your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

23 “And now, Lord, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised, 24 so that it will be established and that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty, the God over Israel, is Israel’s God!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

25 “You, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. So your servant has found courage to pray to you. 26 You, Lord, are God! You have promised these good things to your servant. 27 Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Lord, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever.”

In this passage, we see that there are very defined parts to David’s prayer. In contrast, we sometimes are quick to make requests of God and to tell Him our troubles, but these dimensions of prayer can deepen our spiritual life. Take time to praise God, to count the blessings that He has bestowed upon us, and to affirm our commitment to do what God has told us to do. Here, you see David, first, humbles himself in prayer (1 Chr. 17:16-18). Then, he praises God (1 Chr. 17:19-20). He recognizes God’s blessings upon his life and the life of his people (1 Chr. 17:21-22). Finally, he commits to following God’s direction for his life (1 Chr. 17:23-24).

This pattern is effective :

  1. Worship – we should reflect on the person of God, who He is, what He is and who we are by comparison. We should address the one to whom we are praying and demonstrate to Him and to ourselves how much we honor and respect Him because of who He is – the Great I AM! God is praiseworthy. Getting that fact under our skin is not as easy as we might think. Self-centered praying fails to appreciate that our purpose here on earth is to praise our Creator and Redeemer. Thus, it humbles us and gives us the ability to seek His will in prayer and not necessarily our own.
  2. Thanksgiving – we should reflect on what God has already done in our lives in the past. It not only gets us out of that “what have you done for me lately” mentality, it also gives us reassurance by reflection on how God has always answered our prayers in the past according to His will. We can reflect on how His answers may not have been in the fashion or timing we wanted but it turned out to be the right answer in the right way at the right time.
  3. Confession – Confessing our sin cleanses us and gives us confidence that nothing in our heart will hinder our prayers.  It also postures us in a place of humility before God and prepares our heart to receive His presence.  When we approach God with a pure heart, we become an empty vessel, ready to be filled up with the Holy Spirit. 
  4. Intercession – through the process of worship, thanksgiving and confession, we are now ready to tell God what is on our heart. When we do our prayers in this type of order, it helps us get to a place of humility before we make our own petitions to the Lord. It is funny how this will work out. You might go in thinking a self-centered desire, but by starting with worship and thanksgiving to the Lord, and then confessing our daily sins, it will really get you focused on the idea…hey I am a sinner that is only coming before God because of the grace of Jesus Christ, then, who am I to DEMAND things from God. When we go down the prayer road in this way, we get to our petitions with an humbled heart that might have come at God with a haughty heart without it.

Thus, let us take a cue from David here on how we pray. Maybe, if you are like me and have gotten so engrained in just blurting out to God what we want, we need to write down this 4-step process, Worship, Thanksgiving, Confession, and Intercession (WTCI) until we get it down cold.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 17:16-27

David’s Prayer of Thanks

God’s grace is huge! It’s really big! That’s the idea for today, based on what I read in today’s passage. He is a redeemer. Just look at David. He sees the wonder of God’s grace as he expresses himself in this passage.

David, the forgotten son, left to shepherding the sheep, while Samuel met with Jesse’s family to see if the anointed of God was among them. He was the low man on the family totem pole. He was considered so unimportant that he wasn’t even called to the family meeting. It’s almost like he wasn’t considered a full-fledged member of Jesse’s family. Some scholars conjecture that he was considered a second-class citizen in his own family because of the fact that David’s mom was not the same as the other brothers. David’s mother was most likely the second wife of Jesse, the first wife being the mother of David’s half-brothers. Jesse’s first wife’s standing before the `righteousness of the law’, (her not having been married to, or the concubine of, a heathen king, as was David’s mother), would have been superior to that of David’s mother, and explains why David’s half-brothers, Jesse’s other sons, would have felt they were superior to David, and why he would be accused of being prideful, for thinking he was as good as them. David’s mother was apparently a Jewish woman, because `no Ammonite shall enter the congregation of the Lord to the 10th generation’ (Deuteronomy 23:3), and yet in Psalm 86:16 and Psalm 116:16, David refers to himself as “the son of thy handmaid”, which would seem to testify to his mother’s relationship with the Lord. David’s mother was, in the eyes of Jewish law, considered `defiled’ by her previous relationship to an Ammonite.

Growing up, then, David was most likely constantly humbled because of who he was and from whom he came and all of that, there was nothing he could do about it. It surely made him feel “less than” for much of his formative years. However, God saw David’s heart and knew that he would be considered the greatest king Israel had ever known. Though he was born in a lowly station in life, he was still found by God to be worthy and useful in the Lord’s kingdom because of David’s love and devotion to the Lord.

It reminds me of my own salvation story. Although I don’t have some horror story of my life before salvation but it was bad enough for me. In my life before salvation and even for some years after, I struggled with finding my identity, my value, my worth. Growing up as a preacher’s kid and not living anywhere long enough growing up to feel like I had roots anywhere, I was a chameleon. I just wanted validation of my worth through other people liking me. As a teenager and as a grown man, that validation became more focused by defining my value by whether I was in a relationship with a woman or not. If I was in a relationship, I defined my value by whether or not the woman in my life approved of me or not. I had no sense of my own value. I let others define who I was. I thought the world would implode if I was on my own and alone. For then, I would have no value at all – in my mind. All of this led to two failed marriages, broken relationships, stupid decisions, and, ultimately being alone. It was not until some years after my salvation and after my second marriage ended and when I had several years alone that I really, with God’s help, began realizing that I had value in and of myself – not by what others defined.

I can identify with David here in this passage. He’s saying to the Lord. You know where I’ve come from. You know who I am. But, yet, Lord, you have chosen me to be the Davidic king (from which the Messiah will come). I can say to the Lord as I stand here now 2+ years into full-time pastoral ministry and stand amazed at what God has done. That’s the thing I thought of this morning as I read this passage, 1 Chronicles 17:16-27, this morning. Let’s read it together now:

16 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

“Who am I, Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 17 And as if this were not enough in your sight, my God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You, Lord God, have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men.

18 “What more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant, 19 Lord. For the sake of your servant and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made known all these great promises.

20 “There is no one like you, Lord, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 21 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth whose God went out to redeem a people for himself, and to make a name for yourself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 22 You made your people Israel your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

23 “And now, Lord, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised, 24 so that it will be established and that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty, the God over Israel, is Israel’s God!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

25 “You, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. So your servant has found courage to pray to you. 26 You, Lord, are God! You have promised these good things to your servant. 27 Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Lord, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever.”

In this passage, we see that David’s reference to Israel’s exodus from Egypt would not have gone unnoticed by the original readers of 1 Chronicles, who were either just beginning or had just completed a second great exodus back to Israel from captivity/exile in Babylon. Remembering God’s promises, mercy and protection during the first Exodus would have encouraged the exiles returning to Israel, just as God had promised. Further, this whole passage is reminiscent of our personal journeys of deliverance from valleys of our exile in bondage to our sins and their consequences.

Getting back to the idea of how this all applies to my life (and maybe yours too) is that idea that God can make any one of us useful to His kingdom, no matter the background, no matter the mistakes, no matter what you’ve done or others have done to you. You are so valuable to God that He can redeem you and make you useful to His kingdom. All we must do is believe that God loved us so much that He sent His son to pay the price for all our mess of sins and mistakes so that we don’t have to. All we have to do is love the Lord so much for doing that for us that we give our lives over to his Lordship.

If He can take a mistake-filled, sins galore-filled life, and a defining-yourself-by-sinful-things life like mine and redeem it and turn me into a guy that is so thankful for His redemption that it has ultimately led me into full-time pastoral ministry, then…well…I think He can do it for you too. He did it for David. He did for me. He will do it for you. Just come to the altar as the old song by Elevation Worship states:

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes

Come today there’s no reason to wait

Jesus is calling

Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy

From the ashes a new life is born

Jesus is calling

O come to the altar

The Father’s arms are open wide

Forgiveness was bought with

The precious blood of Jesus Christ

There is nothing that you have done in your past that is too big for the grace and forgiveness offered by God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Come to the altar. The Father’s arms are open wide!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 16:43-7:15

The Lord’s Covenant Promise to David

At first when I read through this passage, 1 Chronicles 16:43-7:15, I said to myself that there had to be a deeper reason why David did not get to build the Temple for the Lord. All we have in this specific passage is the command not to build. We have to move over to 1 Chronicles 22:7-8 to find out why God did not allow David to build the Temple. There, it says that it is because David was a man of war and that God wanted the Temple to be built by a man of peace. I can see that.

By the time that Solomon was able to start and complete the building of the Temple, Israel was finally in an extended period of peace. Israel was at the height of its regional power under the Davidic/Solomonic reign, particularly in the time of Solomon. Therefore, there would be no distractions to what was the greatest building project of the Israelite nation up to that point. The building of the Temple consumed the focus of the brightest engineers, artisans, project managers, and other elite minds as well as the labor of many, many Israelites and foreign indentured servants. Thus, any war efforts would have drawn away from the project. It would have been one of those trying to do two things at once and, as a result, doing them both poorly. Thus, God wanted to wait for there to be a time when there was a long period of peace for Israel. Thus, in God’s omniscience, He knew that there would be such a time in the reign of Solomon – and thus, Solomon would be a man of peace whereas his father was a man of war.

It also got me to thinking about David’s role in the building of the Temple was important though and maybe more so, though the Temple is often affectionately referred to as Solomon’s Temple. In David’s time, God would not allow Him to build the temple, but God did give David the design through revelation and inspiration. David did two important things without which Solomon would not have been able to pull off such a magnificent construction feat in his own life (given the technology of the day). David, with God’s direction, came up with the design. He then evaluated the design and determined every material needed and the quantities thereof. He determined the lengths, widths, sizes, and such of everything related to the Temple’s construction. He then went about procuring those materials in their various shapes, sizes and forms. He then warehoused these goods in an organized fashion and in such a way that the first materials needed would be nearest the Temple site and so on. He was the very definition of “laying the groundwork” for Solomon’s construction of the Temple.

Isn’t that what we have to do sometimes in life and sometimes particularly as a pastor while serving a church for a period of time. In our situations in life, whether it’s your job in the secular world, or mine in the pastoral world, we may have to be the ones that do David’s job as noted here. Let’s read the passage of 1 Chronicles 16:43-17:15, with that idea in mind:

16:43 Then all the people departed to their homes, and David went home to bless his household.

17:1 Now when David settled in his house, David said to the prophet Nathan, “I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.” 2 Nathan said to David, “Do all that you have in mind, for God is with you.”

3 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: 4 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: You shall not build me a house to live in. 5 For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought out Israel to this very day, but I have lived in a tent and a tabernacle.[a] 6 Wherever I have moved about among all Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, Why have you not built me a house of cedar? 7 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people Israel; 8 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies before you; and I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 9 I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall wear them down no more, as they did formerly, 10 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will subdue all your enemies.

Moreover I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house. 11 When your days are fulfilled to go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever. 15 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

In this passage, we see that David felt disturbed that the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence, sat in a tent while he lived in a beautiful palace. David’s desire was right but his timing was wrong. God told David not to build His Temple and David was willing to abide by God’s timing. God says here that He did not really need a temple but He was pleased at David’s desire to honor Him in this way. The thing to grasp here is that with the pressure off of getting the Temple built during his lifetime, David could focus on gathering the finest of the finest materials. And, later, David’s son, Solomon, did not have to worry over procurement, all he had to focus on was the building of the temple. Although Solomon gets the credit for the building of the Temple, it would not have been as easy for Solomon to have built the bright, shiny Temple without the lifetime of David gathering the finest of materials.

Getting back now to the idea I presented before we read the passage. Here, we have seen that God does not immediately give David the reason why he was not being allowed to build the Temple. However, David and Solomon between them performed the entire building process. Design and Procurement was David and Construction Management was Solomon. Solomon received the accolades for the finished product. From historical information that we have available to us in the Bible and outside the Bible, Solomon’s Temple was quite the magnificent structure. It was unrivaled in all of the Middle East. However, David set Solomon up for success.

When you look at your job you have now, you may be laying the groundwork for some future successor to have great success in your position. For example, in my previous career and my last position as finance director for my company, I set the next guy up perfectly for success. When I arrived at that company a decade earlier, the finance group was in total disarray and no one within our two layers of parent companies (all the way up to overall corporate in Japan) did not trust the financial reports or anything financial be reported from our business unit. It took several years to get it all straightened out. It took several more to establish policies and procedures that were consistent and consistently applied such that every financial report of our company became the most trusted in the organization. It took several years too to get all the right personnel in the right positions – the right people in the right seats. By the time I left there to become a full-time pastor over two years ago now, the finance department of our business unit was the most trusted in the entire organization. We even went through an accounting system change and implementation while I was there. We got all the bugs worked out with that and the reporting systems were running smoothly when I left. The next guy who was to come in after me was coming into a well-oiled machine and thus could concentrate on higher issues rather than having to lay the groundwork from the simplest levels to the highest levels like I did. All they gotta do is build upon the foundations that I laid down. The same may well be true for you in your position at your secular job right now. Always leave your job better than you found it. Always set your successor up for greater success than you had. Be the David to Solomon for the next guy who comes in and takes your position at your company after you leave. Leaving it better than you found it and setting the next guy up for success is glorifying to God.

The same is true for me in my current ministry position. It may be my calling at this church to reset the culture from what it is now to an eye toward being a more impactful church in our sphere of influence. It may well be my job here to ready this church for future growth and success for the kingdom of God. All my experience in the secular world and my experiences in leadership and pastoral ministry in larger, modern worship style churches may all be necessary for me to be able to see the amazing potential of this church and so create the culture and lay the groundwork for the future and for the future success of the pastor who follows me here. Always leave the church you serve better than you found it. Always set your successor pastor up for greater success than you had. Be the David to Solomon for the next guy who serves this church. That may be God’s task and assignment for you at this church. Do it to the glory of God!

Amen and Amen.