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“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 15: AUGUST 6
1 CHRONICLES 11 – 2 CHRONICLES 12:16
As we dig deeper into the Old Testament, we can see that the material starts to repeat, though it’s presented from a different perspective and with different aspects highlighted. The same process occurs in the New Testament with the four Gospels. The purpose in repeating the material isn’t to bore the reader or to give a sense of déjà vu, but to affirm and expand on what has already been relayed by other writers. As I’ve mentioned previously, the repetition with slight (or sometimes major) changes is also a very effective teaching tool.
- Today’s reading brings us again the story of David and his son Solomon, though with entirely different details than the earlier telling. The stress here is on the building and furnishing of the temple rather than the military victories of David or the private lives of the two kings. I personally found it kind of dry, and if it were presented alone without the accompaniment of the earlier story, David would lose a good deal of his appeal on a human level and would also lose the moral lessons that his life teaches us. I’m guessing that historians and maybe also theologians appreciate the details provided here about the temple, but for me it’s flyover country. Same with the lineages and who did what in whose service. God knows my heart and he knows I mean no disrespect in saying this, but who begat who, and how many and what kind of animals were sacrificed is not information that I can do anything with. Even so, whoever’s involved in the building of the third temple and setting up the beast system is, I’m sure, poring over every word.
- What jumped out at me in particular today is how many times the eternal kingdom of David’s lineage is mentioned. I love reading in the OT about Jesus and his Kingdom! Whenever I come across a passage that references the Kingdom, I get a little jolt of recognition, like you get when you’re driving somewhere you’ve never been before and all the place names are unfamiliar and then suddenly you see one that’s familiar. It waves to you. The first time Bethlehem is mentioned in the OT, it waved to me, as did Jerusalem, Damascus, Gaza, Hebron, etc. I know these places because they’re still functioning cities today. But when Jesus is referenced through the prophesy of the kingdom that will have no end, I’m pretty much doing a stadium wave and kicking like John the Baptist in the womb.
- I get excited because I know that place, that eternal kingdom that’s prophesied in the OT. I know it because I live in it. It’s my spiritual hometown. If you’re born-again, it’s your spiritual hometown, too. And I know that eternal King that keeps getting mentioned, because he’s not only my Messiah and Lord and savior, he’s also my big brother and best friend. This is how the OT talks to me, not as a dry chronicle of names and building materials, but of promises made and kept by a living God who is as ever-present with us today as he was thousands of years ago. That living God is my father, and he’s right here right now as I write these words and you read them. Jesus is here, too, because wherever two are gathered in his name, there he is among them.
What jumped out at you in today’s reading? Do you, like me, fly over the lineage and building details, or do you actually read them? The beauty of scripture is that different things will appeal to different people at different times and for different reasons.
A few years back, I took a short bus trip out to the countryside just before Christmas. The bus was nearly empty, so I sat behind the driver and starting chatting with him. As it turned out, he was a big fan of the Bible, and we had a fascinating discussion that lasted nearly the entire two hours of the trip. When I was gathering my things together to disembark, the driver said to me quite matter-of-factly “I’m not a Christian, you know. I just like reading the Bible.” Like I said, God’s Word appeals to all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. I’m praying that the driver, if he someday humbles himself and converts, will be a great teacher of God’s Word, as he knows it so intimately, like Paul knew it before his conversion.
The PDF of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH schedule is directly below.
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 12: AUGUST 3
2 SAMUEL 18 – 1 KINGS 11:43
Today’s reading sees the waning of David and rise of several of his sons, the most prominent being Solomon. Like Moses gave “the talk” to his people as he was nearing his end, David also gave the same talk, slightly abridged, to Solomon just before his death. It’s a talk we should all hear every day as a reminder of our priorities.
- As I mentioned yesterday, despite his many blessings, David had a hard run of it in life. The tests and temptations never let up. When he was a kid, his brothers treated him badly; as he grew older and matured, he was hounded by Saul; after God had dealt with Saul and David became king, various heathen nations rose up and had to be destroyed; finally, after David had conquered most of those, his sons started in on him. The plague of his sons must have been the bitterest of all for David. Even so, he loved them and protected each of them to the end.
- Absalom was one of David’s sons. He is described in scripture as being the most beautiful man in Israel – not one of the most beautiful, but THE most beautiful. Eager to take his father’s place on the throne, Absalom rallied some troops and priests around him (beautiful people, whether male or female, can pretty much command others to do their will: beauty casts an immediate, deep, and lasting spell on those who are susceptible to it). David refused to have Absalom killed, even after Absalom himself killed another of David’s sons and stole the kingship out from under his father. David instead chose to flee and live in exile rather than to have Absalom executed.
- As God would have it, Absalom eventually hung himself on a tree in a freak riding accident. David mourned his beautiful but treacherous son so excessively that he had to be snapped out of it by one of his loyal ministers (Joab). After that, David again reigned as king of all Israel until Solomon took over at his death.
- Solomon is an interesting character. If you recall from an earlier reading, he was conceived on the same day that David and Bathsheba’s first child died. Solomon grew up surrounded by great wealth and privilege, but none of it seemed to matter much to him as a young man. What he wanted instead more than anything was to rule and judge wisely as king, so God granted him his wish.
- Along with wisdom (and precisely because he has asked for wisdom rather than long life and riches), God also gave Solomon excessive wealth and the directive to build his temple. God promised Solomon that he and his offspring would remain blessed as long as he kept his Commandments.
- Unfortunately, like his father and countless men before him all the way back to Adam, Solomon was beguiled by his heathen wives and strayed from God’s path. Wanting to please his wives, and likely for a few other reasons that don’t appear in the Bible, he started to build altars to their demon gods. Not a good thing to do if you want to stay on God’s good side. God gave Solomon time to repent of his sins, but when he didn’t do that, God informed him that his son would lose the kingship over Israel, retaining only one tribe for the sake of the promise God had made to David.
- You have to wonder how Solomon, whose wisdom is fabled to have exceeded anyone else’s at the time, could have lost the plot to such an extent that he began worshiping demons. Again, beauty casts a strong spell over most people, and his 700 wives and 300 concubines must have been a force to be reckoned with. Whatever happened, Solomon ended up going down the wrong path in old age, and he paid the price for it. Like I said earlier, it might have been a good idea for Solomon to review daily the talk his dying father gave him. We should all review that talk daily:
Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:1 KINGS 2:3
- Just a note on the temple to end this reflection. I pretty much skipped over most of the building specs, as they don’t interest me. The problem with temples (churches, cathedrals, etc.) is that people get so caught up in the beauty and majesty of the place, they tend to worship and defer to the building and all the stuff in it rather than the one it was built for (God). Jesus talks about this later in the Gospels. That’s the main reason why I don’t much care about the temple description. It just seems so over-the-top and suspiciously grandiose (like Solomon getting 666 talents of gold as his annual allotment as king; that’s an intriguing detail I hadn’t noticed before!).
- Whatever purpose this temple played in God’s economy, it didn’t prevent Solomon from straying down the wrong path, and it didn’t appear to have inspired his foreign wives to convert to their husband’s faith, either. In the end, it was just a big fancy building that ultimately got destroyed for the wickedness of Israel (as we’ll see in the coming readings).
- As for the chief architect (Hiram), he later became almost a godlike figure in the masonic orders and is still revered today by masons the world over. If you know anything about masons, you know that the entity they worship is not God, and that’s all you need to know about them to know that you should have nothing to do with them. So the lasting legacy of the first temple is that the builder became symbolic of a demon worshiping cult, and the person who footed the bill for its construction also fell prey to demon worship.
No wonder God later ditched buildings and switched to people to house his Spirit.
What do you think about today’s reading? What jumped out at you? What do you think happened to Solomon that he ended up straying from God, despite all his wisdom? Was it just the beauty and persuasion of his wives that beguiled him, or do you think something else was at play? Can one man have so much wealth and power and still stay loyal to God?
For a schedule of the remaining readings, click on the links below:
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 11: AUGUST 2
1 SAMUEL 20 – 2 SAMUEL 17:29
I’ve spoken before in these reflections about the richness of some of the readings, but for fans of David, today’s reading is a three-tiered wedding cake smothered in whip cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate sauce. We see David progress from a naive young man into a shrewd and fearless warrior, and finally into king over Judah and the rest of Israel. We also learn that his family – the house of David – will be an Eternal House that will reign forever.
And then we find out that, despite everything he is and everything he’s accomplished and everything he’s promised by God, David is still a man with a man’s desires and weaknesses, and we see how giving into these desires changes the trajectory of the rest of his life.
- As you probably know, I’m a big fan of David. Huge fan. It’s not just the simplicity and unwaveringness of his faith that I find admirable and inspiring; it’s the way he moved through the world. He was handsome, athletic, artistic, and a fierce warrior, but none of this went to his head. There was no pride in him. Instead, he gave God the praise for everything he was and everything he accomplished, and he honored whatever was honorable to God, seeing life through God’s eyes rather than through the world’s eyes. This often meant going against popular opinion or what seemed right to the people around him. There’s a lot of David in Jesus and Jesus in David, which shouldn’t be surprising, given that God’s Spirit was with both of them, and that Jesus is a direct descendant of David on his father’s side.
- Even as a child, David had such profound faith that he thought nothing of attacking ferocious beasts, knowing he would defeat them because God was fighting for him. He knew God would fight all the battles appointed him. And so David from a young age got into the habit of (nearly) always asking God how he should proceed. He didn’t brainstorm a plan and then ask God to bless it; he went to God first for direction and then did whatever God told him to do. This childlike certainty of knowing God was always with him, guiding him and fighting his battles, followed David throughout his life. For him, faith wasn’t something that was external, to be used only on certain occasions; faith was as much a part of him as breathing.
- That’s not to say that David didn’t have his problems. In fact, his life was one long test – battle after battle, betrayal after betrayal, victory after victory, and at the end, heartache after heartache. Through it all, David remained true to himself and to God. The sole exception – his affair with Bathsheba and the murder-by-proxy of her husband Uriah – David later repented of while accepting his due punishment. Ultimately, God turned the sin around and David and Bathsheba’s second son, conceived on the day of the death of their first, grew to take his father’s place on the throne and build the first temple, as we’ll read tomorrow.
A few things in particular jumped out at me during the reading:
- Lots of lies and deception going on, both with and without God’s blessings. David pretending to be insane was one of most striking. Feigned insanity can get you out of many a tight spot. No-one wants to deal with crazy. I speak from personal experience. ;D
- David taking and using Goliath’s spear that had been kept by the priests as a holy relic is poetic justice in action. I love how God puts all the pieces together! He set aside Goliath’s spear for just such a time and place as David needing it. In the same way, he provided the altar bread for David and his men when they had no other means of getting food. When you get into the God groove, all the pieces fall into place.
- David’s first army was made up of malcontents from his father’s house – that is, men who had debts or grievances against Saul and so had nothing to lose in joining David. Note that he didn’t take the biggest, strongest and most well-trained warriors; he took those whose sole qualification was that they supported David. Based on this, God gave them the victory time after time.
- David’s loyalty to Saul after everything Saul did to him puzzled even David’s closest companions. Saul himself was flabbergasted by how David continued to honor him. However, for David, it was self-evident that God’s anointed king should be treated with respect and reverence. David continued to honor Saul and Jonathan after their deaths by looking after Jonathan’s lame son and his family.
- David mourning his son (Bathsheba’s) while the son was still alive, and then stopping the mourning as soon as he heard of his son’s death was a real head-scratcher for those in David’s household. But David knew in advance that his son would die because God had told him through Nathan. Even so, David thought there might still be a sliver of a chance that God would change his mind and let the young child live, so he threw himself at God’s mercy in what looked like mourning to the household. However, in this case, God didn’t change his mind (the child’s death was part of David’s allotted punishment for what he had done to Bathsheba and Uriah), so David didn’t see any point in mourning after he learned that the child was gone. In fact, Solomon was conceived on the very day that the other son died. No moss growing on those stones! ;D
So what jumped out at you in this reading? Are you as fond of David as I am? (Not possible!)
Feel free to share your thoughts on this reading or any of the other ones.
A PDF schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below:
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 10: AUGUST 1
RUTH 1 – 1 SAMUEL 19:24
For those of you who want to keep track of our physical progress during the read-through, we are now approximately one-third of the way through the Old Testament and about one-quarter of the way through the entire Bible. Not sure if that qualifies us for any prizes, but at least we’re on schedule!
- Very interesting that the lineage leading to David (and then on to Jesus) involved a convert. Ruth was not a child of Israel, but she’d married one and then remained with Naomi (her Israeli mother-in-law) even after the death of her husband. Ruth didn’t have to stay with Naomi; she was under no obligation, but she wanted to serve God, and so of her own free will left her Moabite people and heritage behind and remained with the Israelites.
- God is very clear in scripture that those who willingly choose to serve him are the same in his eyes as the children of Israel. He puts no difference between his genetic children and his adoptive children. On the other hand, the children of Israel (or by extension, Christians) who turn their back on God are no longer part of the family. God draws a clear line between those who free-willingly serve him, regardless of their heritage, and those who refuse to serve him, regardless of their heritage. Jesus talks extensively about this in the gospels, but the concept is already clearly delineated in the OT.
- Nice to see the rise of some good guys in this reading (Samuel, David, Jonathan) and somewhat of a return to order for the Israelites. A nation without a good strong leader is like sheep without a good strong shepherd, as we saw in yesterday’s chaotic and violent reading. Unfortunately, though, Saul wasn’t entirely up to the task of being king, since he had a problem with following God’s orders. He said he’d do what he was supposed to do, and then he’d veer off on his own course, doing what looked good in his eyes and in the eyes of the world rather than following God’s explicit directives.
- Samuel genuinely loves Saul and has his hands full trying to keep him on track. But even with Samuel’s constant interventions, Saul’s disobedience ultimately cost him God’s Spirit, which is a death sentence right there. Even so, Saul lived on for a while, plagued by a demonic spirit, just as the disobedient Israelites in the wilderness lived on for a while after being told they weren’t going to enter the Promised Land. God needed Saul to keep on being King while he was preparing David to take his place. God also used Saul as a means to test David to make sure his heart was in the right place and that he would be obedient under every situation. As Samuel mentions, “to obey is better than sacrifice”.
- The story of David and Goliath is one of the Bible’s most famous. It highlights David’s profound faith even as a youth, and shows how God can work through something even as flimsy as a slingshot and a stone if the person wielding them has unswerving faith. As the youngest son, David was ridiculed and dismissed by his family as inconsequential, but God, as we’re told in scripture, looks on the heart, not on the exterior. The world is almost always quick to judge and dismiss based on looks, age, wealth, education, etc., but thank God that God looks on the heart instead, so there’s hope for everyone!
- The deep friendship developing between Jonathan and David in this reading is very touching. In choosing to support and protect David rather than go along with his father (who is also his king), Jonathan demonstrates what Jesus later teaches us about the importance of doing God’s will rather than that of your family or your earthly ruler. If the two conflict, you should always choose to do the will of God, even if it means disobeying your mother and father (or local/state/federal laws).
- I love the whole Bible (as you’ve probably noticed), but I especially love reading about David. He’s just such the “whole package” – profoundly faithful and obedient to God, incredibly brave, a king, a warrior, a father, a husband, a poet, a musician, a singer, a dancer, etc.. There’s no-one else quite like him in all of scripture. Whatever he puts his mind to, he aces, and with God’s blessings. Plus, he’s really really good-looking (lol). Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, but dang, that guy sure pushes all the right buttons! Can’t wait to meet him up close and personal, if and when I make it home to Heaven. I want to see him dance the dance he danced when he was leading the Ark of the Covenant into the city of David (sneak peek at tomorrow’s reading!).
I hope you’re enjoying the read-through as much as I am. I’m seeing things I hadn’t seen before, which is what always happens during a read-through (or any Bible reading). What are you seeing that you hadn’t noticed before? Feel free to leave your reflections in the comment section below.
Wondering what’s coming up next? Click on the “Download” button for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH schedule on PDF:
Jesus is the greatest of all freedom fighters. He told us that knowing the truth will make us free, and so it does. God is truth, so knowing God as our Dad brings us into God’s kingdom on Earth and makes us free from the attacks of our spiritual enemies. This is the true freedom that God promised Israel through the Old Testament prophets. This is true safety and security, not the fake one promoted by the Homeland Security organizations of the world. As long as we keep wanting and choosing what God wants for us (knowing that God wants only the best), then we are secure in our safety and freedom.
But at the same time God loves and encourages free thought. In fact, he loves the notion of free thought so much that he embedded it in the concept of free will. We are free to think our way into choosing what God knows is best for us, and we are equally free to think our way into rejecting it.
We are as free to be illogical and wrong in our thought processes as we are free to be logical and correct.
Why would God do that? Why wouldn’t he just make us receptive only to correctness rather than allow us to doubt and make wrong choices based on those doubts?
God loves it when we use the gifts he’s given us, and the gifts he loves us most to use are free thought and free will. God doesn’t want automatons serving him; he doesn’t want forced obedience: he wants us to come to him because we want to come to him. He wants us to weigh the pros and cons (do a cost/benefit analysis, if you will) and then decide what we think is best. Of course, he’s always putting in his two cents’ worth; he never leaves us guessing as to which option is the right one. He wrote his laws on our hearts, and if we’re still not sure, he gave us scripture, his spirit, and Jesus.
I love Jesus! He’s such a cool guy. Nothing ever fazes him. That’s because, when he was in his Earthly body, he lived fully in God’s promise of freedom, protection and security. That doesn’t mean, however, that he automatically did God’s will in everything – no, not at all. He took advantage of his free thought and free will to try to negotiate better terms with God.
One of these famous “negotiations” played out in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus was crucified. God had earlier told Jesus what was going to happen to him, and certainly Jesus knew from scripture what was going to happen to him, but he didn’t like it. Not one bit. And why would he? He was a virile young man in the peak of health. He didn’t want to die, and certainly not the way that was laid out for him. If he had willingly embraced his humiliation and crucifixion and gone marching to his death with a smile on his face, he would have been insane, and Jesus most certainly was not insane. So, trying to wheedle maybe a few more days or weeks or even hours out of God, Jesus asks him if there’s some other way he can do what needs to be done. He asks him once, and God says “No.” He asks him again, and again God says “No.” He asks him a third time, and when God’s answer is still “No”, Jesus throws in the towel and says he’ll do it.
Does he do it with a smile on his face? Not at all. We know from scripture that he barely spoke a word from that moment onwards. With his God-given free thought, Jesus weighed the pros and cons of what was required of him to be the Messiah. He also used it to try to find some way around the worst of the requirements, but God wasn’t budging. Still, he let Jesus think it through. Still, he stood firm while Jesus tried to find a short-cut that would not involve crucifixion. When the combined witness of God, scripture and his own heart showed Jesus that the best way to do what had to be done was simply to do it, Jesus conceded. He wasn’t coerced; he wasn’t forced; he could have said “no” and gone down another path that might have ended with him marrying Mary Magdalene and bouncing 12 Junior Jesus’s on his knee, but he deduced, through logic and God’s witness, that choosing God’s way was the best way to achieve his goal of Messiahship, so he chose it. God then strengthened him, and less than 24 hours later, Jesus took his place forever at the right hand of God.
David had a similar clash of wills with God over David’s first-born with Bathsheba. Through the prophet Nathan, God informed David that the child would fall ill and die, but David reasoned that maybe God would change his mind if he fasted and prayed and mourned. So, he held vigil for seven days and nights, refusing to eat or drink or even talk to anyone. Despite David’s efforts, the child died, but instead of mourning his death, David got up, took a shower, grabbed a bite to eat, and then headed over to Bathsheba’s private suite to “comfort” her in the Biblical way. His servants are taken aback by what they saw was his odd behavior at the death of his son, but he explained that while his child was still alive, there was a chance that God would change his mind and let the child live. The child’s death signaled that God would not change his mind, so David conceded. It was as simple as that. And at David’s concession, God strengthened him, and Solomon was conceived that very night.
God not only allows us but encourages us to use our free thought and free will. He invites us to align our wills with his not by coercion but by logical choice. God wants only the best for us, but sometimes no pain means no gain. God protects us spiritually, but spiritual protection doesn’t mean that we won’t have to suffer pain while still in our Earthly bodies. We need to make up our mind to accept that now, because, as with Jesus and David, some form of pain is almost definitely going to be in the cards if we intend to “endure to the end”. Still, maybe God will give us some wiggle room; who knows? It never hurts to ask. But if you do ask, and he doesn’t budge, you can be sure that what awaits you on the other side of that temporary pain is a whole lot of gain beyond your wildest dreams.