Archive for April 16, 2012
Tags: Books of Kings, God, king solomon, Kings, Oceania, Shopping, Solomon, Solomon Islands
“Then the king said, ‘Bring me a sword.’ So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: ‘Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.’ The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, ‘Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!’ But the other said, ‘Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!’ ” — 1 Kings 3:24–26
In the opening chapters of the book of Kings, King Solomon is granted one wish. In this original genie-in-the-bottle moment, God appears to Solomon in a dream and invites him to ask for anything. King Solomon chooses to ask for wisdom. He places wealth, health, and immortality on the back burner, so that he can best serve God in his role as the king.
Immediately afterwards, we read the famous story about two women who approach the king about a dispute over a baby. The first woman claims that the other woman stole her baby after the woman accidentally killed her own child when she rolled over the baby during the night. The second woman denies the claim and insists that the living child is hers. King Solomon’s new gift of wisdom is demonstrated to the nation as he cleverly discerns the truth by offering to cut the baby in two in order to give both women half. As Solomon anticipates, the true mother is revealed when the second woman pleads with the king to give the whole child to the other woman rather than put the child to death.
When reading this story, we generally place the spotlight on King Solomon and marvel at his divine wisdom. However, when we shift the spotlight onto the second woman in the passage, a new story, with a profound message, begins to emerge. In a split second the baby’s true mother teaches the world that there are things more important in life than being right.
As human beings, we are bound to experience conflict with one another from time to time. We engage in quarrels with our family members, our co-workers, even the guy behind the check-out counter. Some of the time, we really are right and we know that we can prove it.
However, the question that we must ask is: At what cost? Obviously the life of a child is more important than being right. But so is a child’s self esteem. So is a marriage. So is a friendship. So is peace in the family. And the list goes on and on.
In every conflict, we get to choose the role that we will play. Will we play the part of the first woman – so intent on making the other person wrong that she is willing to give up everything, just so that the other person ends up with nothing? Or will we play the part of the second woman who focused on what was really important to her and was able to let the other person “be right” in order to preserve what she truly cared about?
In every conflict that we confront, the stage is set. We need only to choose our part. Choose wisely.
Tags: Gideon, God, Holy Spirit, Jacob's biscuits, Jesu, Mount Horeb, Nehushtan, Penuel
“By reason of breakings they purify themselves” (Job 41:25).
God uses most for His glory those people and things which are most perfectly broken. The sacrifices He accepts are broken and contrite hearts. It was the breaking down of Jacob’s natural strength at Peniel that got him where God could clothe him with spiritual power. It was breaking the surface of the rock at Horeb, by the stroke of Moses’ rod that let out the cool waters to thirsty people.
It was when the 300 elect soldiers under Gideon broke their pitchers, a type of breaking themselves, that the hidden lights shone forth to the consternation of their adversaries. It was when the poor widow broke the seal of the little pot of oil, and poured it forth, that God multiplied it to pay her debts and supply means of support.
It was when Esther risked her life and broke through the rigid etiquette of a heathen court, that she obtained favor to rescue her people from death. It was when Jesus took the five loaves and broke them, that the bread was multiplied in the very act of breaking, sufficient to feed five thousand. It was when Mary broke her beautiful alabaster box, rendering it henceforth useless, that the pent-up perfume filled the house. It was when Jesus allowed His precious body to be broken to pieces by thorns and nails and spear, that His inner life was poured out, like a crystal ocean, for thirsty sinners to drink and live.
It is when a beautiful grain of corn is broken up in the earth by DEATH, that its inner heart sprouts forth and bears hundreds of other grains. And thus, on and on, through all history, and all biography, and all vegetation, and all spiritual life, God must have BROKEN THINGS.
Those who are broken in wealth, and broken in self-will, and broken in their ambitions, and broken in their beautiful ideals, and broken in worldly reputation, and broken in their affections, and broken ofttimes in health; those who are despised and seem utterly forlorn and helpless, the Holy Ghost is seizing upon, and using for God’s glory. “The lame take the prey,” Isaiah tells us.
O break my heart; but break it as a field
Is by the plough up-broken for the corn;
O break it as the buds, by green leaf seated,
Are, to unloose the golden blossom, torn;
Love would I offer unto
Love’s great Master,
Set free the odor, break the alabaster.
O break my heart; break it victorious God,
That life’s eternal well may flash abroad;
O let it break as when the captive trees,
Breaking cold bonds, regain their liberties;
And as thought’s sacred grove to life is springing,
Be joys, like birds, their hope, Thy victory singing.
–Thomas Toke Bunch
Tags: Creator deity, Crockett, Davy, Davy Crockett, God, Gratitude, Psalm, United States
My boyhood hero was American frontiersman Davy Crockett. In the book David Crockett: His Life and Adventures, Davy encounters a beautiful sight that causes him to launch into praise to the Creator. The writer describes it this way: “Just beyond the grove there was another expanse of treeless prairie, so rich, so beautiful, so brilliant with flowers, that even Colonel Crockett, all unaccustomed as he was to the devotional mood, reined in his horse, and gazing entranced upon the landscape, exclaimed, ‘O God, what a world of beauty hast Thou made for man! And yet how poorly does he requite Thee for it! He does not even repay Thee with gratitude.’” Crockett recognized that the Creator’s handiwork demands a response of thankfulness—a response that is often neglected or ignored.
The psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). God’s handiwork is a spectacle that, rightly understood, should not only take our breath away but should inspire us to worship and praise our God as it did the psalmist.
Davy Crockett was right—encountering the wonders of God’s creation should inspire, at the least, a heart of gratitude. Are we grateful?
Tags: Bible, Ezekiel, God, Jesu, LORD God, Oholah and Oholibah, Prayer, Samaria
The LORD God proclaims: Deep and wide is your sister’s cup. Drink! Appointed for abuse and scorn, it overflows. You will be filled with drunken sadness. A cup of devastation and dismay is the cup of your sister Samaria. (CEB)
I find Ezekiel 23 is one of the hardest chapters in the whole Bible to read. Partly, its use of graphic sexual imagery is unsettling. Partly, its portrayal of the unfaithfulness of God’s people is deeply distressing.
In the middle of this chapter, we find the use of a metaphor that might seem familiar: “The LORD God proclaims: Deep and wide is your sister’s cup. Drink! Appointed for abuse and scorn, it overflows. You will be filled with drunken sadness. A cup of devastation and dismay is the cup of your sister Samaria” (23:32-33). The cup symbolizes the judgment of God that falls upon Samaria and is soon to fall upon Judah as well (called Oholibah in this chapter, a word that literally means “tent worshiper”). Judah will soon drink the cup that is filled with abuse, scorn, and devastation. The people will experience drunken sadness and dismay because of their persistent idolatry and unfaithfulness to God.
Why might this metaphor of the cup of judgment sound familiar to us? Because it was used by Jesus when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Mark 14:36, for example, Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (ESV). The cup stands for the death that Jesus is about to suffer on the cross. But it isn’t just the physical suffering that Jesus wishes to avoid. He recognizes that he is soon to “drink in” the judgment of God upon human sin. He is about to experience the depth of hell even though he did nothing to deserve it.
Jesus did in fact drink the cup of judgment. He drank it for you and for me, so that, in the mystery of God’s grace, we might drink from the cup of salvation. This is the wonder of the Gospel, the good news that changes everything, beginning with our relationship with God, and touching every part of life.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you think about Jesus’ taking your sin upon himself? If you really believed that Jesus took the judgment for your sin, how might you live differently?
PRAYER: God of justice, when I read Ezekiel 23 I cringe, not only because the language is so graphic, and not only because of what your people once did to reject you, but also because I am confronted with my own unfaithfulness. Truly, I deserve to drink the cup of your judgment.
Yet, in your mercy, you have taken that cup away from me. Jesus drank my cup on the cross, offering me instead his cup of salvation. How I thank and praise you for the wonder of your grace. May I live in that grace today, and share it with others. Amen.
The Danger of Heart-hardening
Another breakdown in the truth–feeling–act sequence comes when the heart for selfish reasons deliberately hardens itself against the Word of God. This is the state of all who love darkness rather than light and for that reason either withdraw from the light altogether or when exposed to it stubbornly refuse to obey it. The covetous man looks on human need and sternly refuses to be moved by it. To yield to the impulse of generosity naturally aroused by the sight of poverty would require him to give up some of his cherished hoard, and this he will not do. So the fountain of generosity is frozen at its source. The miser keeps his gold, the poor man suffers on in his poverty and the whole course of nature is upset. Is it any wonder that God hates covetousness? But be sure that human feelings can never be completely stifled. If they are forbidden their normal course, like a river they will cut another channel through the life and flow out to curse and ruin and destroy. The Christian who gazes too long on the carnal pleasures of this world cannot escape a certain feeling of sympathy with them, and that feeling will inevitably lead to behavior that is worldly. And to expose our hearts to truth and consistently refuse or neglect to obey the impulses it arouses is to stymie the motions of life within us and, if persisted in, to grieve the Holy Spirit into silence. The Scriptures and our own human constitution agree to teach us to love truth and to obey the sweet impulses of righteousness it raises within us. If we love our own souls we dare do nothing else.
Tags: Christ, Christianity, God, Jesu, Lord, New International Version, NLT, Religion & Spirituality
“God…will fulfill his purpose for [you].” Ps 57:2 NLT
If you’ve been praying for God to send you the right partner, or for a better job, or to change the heart of a rebellious kid, remember, whether He changes the situation or changes you, He “will fulfill his purpose for [you].” God sees the big picture, and He loves you so much that He works out “all things for good in your life” (See Ro 8:28). One author writes: “It’s hard to make sense of life’s challenges when you’re in the middle…you’re too tired, your perspective’s limited…you don’t have the strength or vision to do this on your own…‘Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding’ (Pr 3:5 GWT) means letting go of floundering attempts to manipulate people, circumstances, or timing…and returning the reins to the One who knows the way. Think about it; if you knew what you were doing, would you be in this mess? We talk about waiting on God. But He also waits on us…until we’re ready to receive…until we appreciate what we’re asking for…until we’ve made sufficient preparations in our heart…until we’re free from resentment and discontent…until our maturity level is appropriate and our understanding elevated…Sometimes He waits until we think He’s forgotten us just to test and grow our faith…Remember, ‘With the Lord a day is like a thousand years’ (2Pe 3:8 NIV). Eternity is His backdrop…and He can solve a problem in a minute, or in two generations.” Isaiah says, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you…Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isa 30:18 NIV). Wait! Don’t get ahead of God and you’ll experience His best.