Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ecclesiastes 11: Known And Unknown

As Ecclesiastes enters its home stretch, Solomon offers several final observations about things that we should know, and matters that we cannot know.

Ecclesiastes 10: The Field Guide To Fools

As a wise man, Solomon apparently found himself perturbed by fools.  In Ecclesiastes, he has much advice to give on how to identify, and thus avoid, fools.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ecclesiastes 9: Fatalism (Or Que Sera, Sera)

It's hard to disagree with Solomon's wisdom and his honest observations of life.  It's also hard to dispute the notion that reading Ecclesiastes is something of a downer.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ecclesiastes 8: Value Or Vanity?

As Solomon continues searching through various activities and life experiences in his quest for wisdom and understanding, he frequently issues one of two verdicts: either something is considered to be a good worth pursuing or else it is deemed a worthless vanity.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Psalm 100: All The Right Notes

Psalm 100 is a very compact psalm (only 5 verses long) yet still manages to hit all the right notes as a song of praise and thanksgiving.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Ecclesiastes 7: The Limits Of Experience

Solomon is known for being wise, of course.  What comes through in Ecclesiastes 7 is that he is also very experienced.  Many of his sayings are distilled from the years he has spent observing life.  As he remarks, "In my vain life I have seen everything..." (vs. 15).

Ecclesiastes 6: Evil Under The Sun

I wonder if Solomon was talking about himself in Ecclesiastes 6?  Tradition tells us that Ecclesiastes is the product of his old age, whereas Proverbs was written in his middle age and the Song of Solomon in his youth.  If this is the case, then perhaps we have here the observations of a man frustrated about his impending mortality and the inevitability of his leave-taking of the world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ecclesiastes 5: How Much Is Enough?

"The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain.  This also is vanity" (vs. 10).

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ecclesiastes 4: What Is Better?

Part of wisdom's benefit comes from the insight it gives us into which state of affairs may be better for us.  Whenever we get a chance to make choices regarding our situation, we do well to do so with wisdom.  In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon offers his opinion on several matters about what is better.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Psalm 99: Mighty King

Twin themes emerge from Psalm 99: God is king, and He is mighty.  The psalm even begins, "The Lord is king; let the peoples tremble!  He sits enthroned among the cherubim; let the earth quake!"  From there, we continue to hear both of God's great and awesome name, as well as His royal reign over His people Israel.  Both acts of power and justice are recounted as emblematic of the Lord's nature.  The psalm concludes with the imperative, "Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy" (vs. 9).

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ecclesiastes 3: Timeless Words

In many of the funeral services I conduct, I incorporate Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 as a frame for talking about the life of the deceased.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ecclesiastes 1: A Depressing State Of Affairs

Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books in the Bible.  It's so...dark.

Proverbs 31: Of Moms And Wives

It is perhaps fitting that a book dedicated to wisdom ends with advice from a mother and an ode to a wife.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Proverbs 30: The Prayer Of Goldilocks

Proverbs 30 is ascribed to Agur, son of Jakeh.  Who was Agur?  After researching it, I discovered that there are many theories, from Agur being a nomadic wise man who lived between Israel and Babylon to the name merely being a code word for Solomon.  Basically, however, nobody has any real evidence so it all remains speculation!  Whoever he is, however, Agur does have some very interesting insights to share!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Psalm 98: Joy In The Lord

Four times the psalmist uses a variation of the word "joy" in this short psalm.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Proverbs 28: Crime Does Not Pay

With all the teachings against wickedness and foolishness we find in Proverbs, you may wonder why anyone would ever choose to go down that path.  There are so many warnings against evil, why do people still sin?  Proverbs says that even though the wicked may prosper for a time, they will find out that, in the end, crime does not pay.

Proverbs 27: What Does The Future Hold?

At several points in the Book of Proverbs, you can hear a hint of the New Testament coming through.  There's a great example of this connection between the Testaments in chapter 27.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Proverbs 26: A Proverb For All Seasons

It is one thing to revere the proverbs and look upon them as the revealed Word of God.  It is another to deploy them properly in the right context.  After all, "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver" (25:11).

Proverbs 25: Solomon's Similes

Beginning in chapter 25, we see a subtle shift in the tone and format of the proverbs.  The chapter begins, "These are other proverbs of Solomon that the officials of King Hezekiah of Judah copied" (vs. 1).  Compiled by a later king, these recorded words of Solomon have a slightly different feel than what went before.  For instance, we find a lot of similes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Proverbs 24: The Thread Of Wisdom

Running all through the tapestry that is the Book of Proverbs is one thread: the consistent call to a life of wisdom!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Proverbs 23: Not-So-Common Sense

Many of the proverbs reinforce the common sense things that we already know - or, at least, the common sense things that we should know.

Proverbs 22: Proverbial Proverbs

Proverbs has added many treasured sayings and expressions to our culture.  A couple of them make appearances in chapter 22.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Proverbs 21: Women Trouble

How different do you think the Proverbs would be if they had been composed by women?

Proverbs 20: Some Things About Kings

In addition to being a book of teachings and instruction about life and commerce, Proverbs also includes many lessons about those who, like Solomon, hold the responsibilities of royal rule.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Psalm 97: What Does Glory Look Like?

We hear a lot about God's "glory" in the Bible, especially in the Psalms.  But just what do we mean by that?  What does glory look like?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Proverbs 19: Poor Treatment

Proverbs wrestles with the treatment of the poor and addresses the poor treatment that those living in poverty often receive.

Proverbs 18: The Power Of The Tongue

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit" (vs. 21).  Solomon's proverbs reveal an abiding interest in the power of speech to bring about good or cause harm.

Proverbs 17: Mama Didn't Raise No Fool?

One of Solomon's themes in Proverbs is the relationship between parents and their children.  When the children are wise and good, the household is happy.  But parents that raise a fool will find themselves filled with heartache and misery.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Proverbs 16: The God Behind The Curtain

Ever heard the expression, "There is a God, and you're not Him?"  While not officially one of Solomon's proverbs, that saying does complement one of themes in his book.  Many proverbs indicate that, although we often presume that we are the ones in charge, God has actually reserved for Himself the ability to call the shots.  We call this concept "sovereignty."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Proverbs 15: The Limits Of Prosperity

"Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.  Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it" (vs. 16-17).

Proverbs 14: Observations

Some of the proverbs are "didactic"; that is, Solomon is attempting to teach a moral lesson or instruct us how to act ethically.  Others, however, are more in line with philosophical observations about life.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Proverbs 13: Binary World

My son Daniel is currently in his junior year at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.  One of the campus features is a long "binary" sidewalk made up of 1s and 0s.  It actually spells out a message if you know the code.  In a binary language, everything is reduced to one of two possible states: off or on, yes or no, 1 or 0, black or white.  The proverbs of Solomon reveal that he often viewed the world in such binary terms, divided between the righteous and the wicked.

Proverbs 12: Prerequisite For Proverbs

Solomon's book of proverbs is filled with lots of good advice - but what good does any of it do if we don't approach it with a teachable spirit?

Proverbs 11: God's Economy

There are dozens of proverbs to be found in chapter 11, but I'd like to focus on two verses that stood out to me: "Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.  A generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives water will get water" (vs. 24-25).

Monday, November 30, 2015

Proverbs 10: Life's Little Instruction Book

"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech" (vs. 19).  With that in mind, I'll keep this short!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Proverbs 9: The Difference

Proverbs 9 contains some fascinating parallels between wisdom and foolishness.  How can you determine which is which?  And, more importantly, how can you tell if you are wise or foolish?  Solomon gives us the test to find the difference!

Proverbs 8: Sophia Calling

You probably already know that Solomon takes wisdom quite seriously and honors it very, very highly.  His devotion comes through loud and clear in this chapter's praise of wisdom and its declarations of what has been accomplished through it.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Proverbs 7: Take It From Solomon

It doesn't take long reading through the Proverbs to find that Solomon maintains a particular interest in discouraging adultery among his audience.

Proverbs 6: Playing Nice With Others

Solomon gives some very practical advice to his audience about how to behave in such a way so as to thrive spiritually and socially.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Proverbs 5: Staying True

"Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.
Should your streams be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone, and not for sharing with strangers.
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth" (vs. 15-18).

Proverbs 4: David's Legacy

Should Proverbs 4:3-4 be taken literally?  If so, and if this book was indeed composed by Solomon, we have a picture of the young prince in his childhood being taught by his father King David to choose the path of wisdom.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Proverbs 3: Trust And Obey

One of the central keys to wisdom is revealed in verses 5 and 6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."

Proverbs 2: You Get What You Seek

Proverbs 2 invites the listener to choose carefully what he will pursue in life.  Like Jesus' promise that those who seek find and those who ask receive, this chapter indicates that we will indeed get what we look for.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Proverbs 1: The Beginning Of Knowledge

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (vs. 7).

Psalm 96: What Makes God So Special?

It would have been interesting to live in a polytheistic world.  In the Old Testament, Israel was surrounded by pagan nations that worshiped other gods.  I'm sure that - just like Christians get challenged about the veracity of our beliefs today - Israel found itself questioned about their commitment to the Lord above anything else.  I believe Psalm 96 can be read as a response to this challenge of faith.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Song Of Solomon 8: The Power Of Love

"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.  It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, rivers cannot wash it away.  If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned" (vs. 6-7).

The Song Of Solomon 7: Love Is All Around

Now back into the love song between lover and beloved, we see chapter 7 consisting of two parts where they sing to one another.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Song Of Solomon 6: Where Did Our Love Go?

"Where has your lover gone, most beautiful of women?  Which way did your lover turn, that we may look for him with you?" (vs. 1)

The Song Of Solomon 5: Lost In Love

Chapter 5 of the Song of Solomon describes a "missed connection" between lover and beloved, one that leads to the beloved's profession of deep feelings for the lover to the daughters of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Song Of Solomon 4: The Look Of Love

The fourth chapter of the Song of Solomon contains evocative similes and metaphors that the king employed to woo his beloved, mostly describing her attractive looks and physical features.  (Warning: some of these expressions may no longer be considered complimentary in the 21st century!)

The Song Of Solomon 3: Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

Chapter 3 seems to consist of two parts: a search for the lover by the beloved, and an image of Solomon's royal wedding procession.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Song Of Solomon 2: You Can't Hurry Love

"Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires" (vs. 7).

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Song Of Solomon 1: Just An Old-Fashioned Love Song

The Song of Solomon, also known as the Song of Songs, is one of the more controversial books in the Bible.  The debate over its inclusion centered around its passionate tone and sexual imagery that is presumed to be more in keeping with romantic entanglements between humans than it is our relationship with the Lord.

Psalm 95: A Joyful Noise

Have you ever been filled with an overwhelming sense of worship for the Lord?  Have you ever felt like you could just about burst with praise to God?  If so, perhaps you can relate to the emotions of the psalmist who composed Psalm 95!

Friday, November 13, 2015

I Kings 11: Solomon's Downfall

Everyone has their favorite imponderables about the Bible, questions such as "How could people live so long back in the times of the patriarchs?" or "What were Jesus' growing up years like?"  Mine is - "How could the story of Solomon end so tragically when he had been given so much wisdom and had so much going for him?"

Thursday, November 12, 2015

I Kings 10: Wisdom Pays Off

That wisdom thing is really working out well for Solomon.

I Kings 9: Israel's Emergence

During the reign of Solomon, Israel begins to emerge as a regional power.  Up until this time, they had been preoccupied with local threats - pacifying Canaan, the challenge of the Philistines, conquering Jerusalem from the Jebusites, etc.  Now they are established as the rulers of the land, subjugating the other people groups (vs. 20-21) and forming alliances by treaty and marriage with other major powers such as Tyre and Egypt.  Still, this new prestige and prosperity comes with a familiar warning: as long as the people adhere to their covenant with the Lord, He will bless them (vs. 4-5).  But if they turn their back to God, He will turn His back to them (vs. 6-7)!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I Kings 8: The Purpose Of The Temple

Israel knew that God does not require a house to live in.  In fact, even the physical universe itself cannot contain Him (vs. 27)!  So why did Solomon and the nation go the trouble of building such an elaborate and costly structure as the Temple?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Kings 7: Inside The Temple

After describing the palace that Solomon built for himself in verses 1-12, I Kings 7 goes on to give us more details about the Temple, such as its furnishings and finishing touches.  A bronzeworker from Tyre named Hiram came and worked on such pieces as the two pillars of bronze, a large "sea", stands, basins and more.  The Temple wasn't just a monument or museum; it was a functioning place of corporate worship for Israel. For more information and to see some visual representations of what Solomon's Temple may have looked like, check out:
 http://www.bible-archaeology.info/temple_of_solomon.htm

Monday, November 9, 2015

I Kings 6: From Tabernacle To Temple

What a glorious wonder Solomon's Temple must have been to behold in the ancient world!  To quote John Hammond from Jurassic Park, the king "spared no expense" in its construction.

I Kings 5: Cedars Of Lebanon

With King Solomon firmly established on the throne, it's time to begin getting serious about the major building project of his reign: the Temple!

Psalm 94: God Of Vengeance?

Psalm 94 contains some language and imagery that is decidedly non-politically correct by today's cultural standards.  "O Lord, you God of vengeance" (vs. 1)  "Give to the proud what they deserve!" (vs. 2)  "The Lord our God will wipe them out" (vs. 23).  How are we to understand and accept these passages while also maintaining the Bible's overall teaching of a God of grace and mercy?

Friday, November 6, 2015

I Kings 4: The Golden Age Of Israel

Everyone likes to reminisce about "the good ol' days."  In Israel's case, the era of Solomon's reign is fondly remembered as the golden age of national history.

I Kings 3: Asked And Answered

If you have heard nothing else about Solomon, you probably know that he is regarded as extremely wise, or the wisest man who ever lived, according to the Bible.  I Kings 3 gives us the background as to how that reputation came about.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I Kings 2: Settling Scores

I Kings 2 brings us the death of David and the transition to King Solomon.  He encourages his son to be strong and courageous and faithful to the Lord.  In the last recorded words we have of David, he instructs Solomon to take care of some unfinished business and settle some old scores (vs. 5-9).

I Kings 1: Adonijah Vs. Solomon

Turning from the books of Samuel to those of Kings reveals that we are nearing the end of David's life.  He is now old and cold, and a beautiful young woman named Abishag is brought in to keep him warm.  As David clings to life, a battle for succession to his throne ensues between his sons Adonijah and Solomon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

II Samuel 24: A Senseless Census

Just when you thought David might be in line for a happy ending, we have one more tale of woe concerning an occasion when he chose his own will rather than the Lord's.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

II Samuel 23: Never Underestimate The Power Of An Individual

David is one of the central figures in the Bible. In fact, he serves as an archetype (the original pattern, model, or prototype) of the promised Messiah. It is hard to overstate his influence in scripture and subsequent history. Likewise, we must also understand that David didn't accomplish everything he did alone. In addition to the Lord, David had significant help from other key individuals, who are credited in II Samuel 23.

Psalm 93: Twice and Thrice Is Nice

Psalm 93 is brief (only 5 verses) but employs the device of repetition to drive its points home.

II Samuel 22: Cross Referenced

It isn't too often that the Bible repeats itself verbatim, but we find that in II Samuel 22.  It is a duplicate of Psalm 18!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

II Samuel 20: Putting Down A Rebellion

With the kingdom still in turmoil after lurching from David to Absalom and back to David, a "scoundrel" named Sheba takes advantage of the situation to promote a rebellion among the tribes of Israel against Judah's leadership.

II Samuel 19: The Return Of The King

After the death of Absalom, the kingdom reverts to David.  II Samuel 19 describes the return of the king to power.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

II Samuel 18: Absalom's Hang Up

In a book full of notable death scenes, Absalom's end is one of the more interesting.  During the forest battle with David's forces in the land of Ephraim, Absalom (remember that amazing hair? II Samuel 14:26) gets his head caught in the branches of an oak tree, while the mule that he was riding kept going.  As he struggled there, suspended from the tree, it might have been a comical scene, except that Joab comes along and plunges three spears into him.  With such dispatch, the rebellion is put down and David's life (and kingdom) are saved.

II Samuel 17: Lion On The Lam

"It's the good advice that you just didn't take." (Alanis Morissette, Ironic)  Absalom himself could have written that line after he rejected the suggestions of Ahitophel, choosing instead to follow the secretly malicious plans of Hushai.

Monday, October 26, 2015

II Samuel 16: Placing Their Bets

With the kingdom in upheaval and the future of the monarchy uncertain, those around David and Absalom make their calculations and place their bets on who to support: the deposed king or the crafty usurper.

II Samuel 15: Absalom: An Ingratiating Ingrate

David's reign takes another tragic turn in II Samuel 15 when a coup is plotted against him by none other than his son, the attractive and popular Absalom.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Psalm 92: The Short Run Vs. The Long Term

Psalm 92 makes a case that there are basically two kinds of people in the world: the righteous and the unrighteous.  Both may seem to flourish (vs. 7 and 13).  But this apparent equality in their condition is deceptive.  The "wicked sprout like grass" but are actually doomed to destruction forever (vs. 7).  Eventually the enemies of the Lord shall perish and be scattered (vs. 9).  The righteous, on the other hand, "flourish like a palm tree" and "grow like a cedar" (vs. 12).  They continue to produce good fruit even in old age.  Psalm 92 counsels us to consider the difference between the short run (but temporary) success of the wicked and the long term fruitfulness of the righteous.  After all, what would you rather your spirit be like: grass or trees?

Friday, October 23, 2015

II Samuel 14: Bring Him Home

I may have found a new favorite Old Testament verse!  "We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up.  But God will not take away a life; he will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished forever from his presence" (vs. 14).  Doesn't that just have GOSPEL written all over it?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

II Samuel 13: Rape And Murder

Just as Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world through the Fall, so, too, has David introduced sin into his family through his actions against Uriah, and it begins tearing them apart.  Chapter 13 skips ahead a few years, telling us that "some time passed" (vs. 1).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

II Samuel 12: Speaking Truth To Power

How would you like Nathan's job?  Called to be a prophet of the Lord, his assignment is to go to King David and confront him about his sins of adultery and murder.  There is no one more powerful than David, who has already killed men to keep his sins secret and cover his tracks.  Yet Nathan went in obedience to the Lord (vs. 1).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

II Samuel 11: Covering His Tracks

II Samuel 11 may be my least favorite chapter of the Bible.  It is certainly one of the saddest, describing the most vile and despicable things that David did in life.  Our hero plays the part of a villain. Through these sinful events, David tragically sows the seeds of the destruction of his family.

II Samuel 10: It Doesn't Pay To Go Against Israel

The Ammonites make a major miscalculation in how they treat King David, and end up dragging another nation (the Arameans) down with them.

Monday, October 19, 2015

II Samuel 9: Mephibosheth

The word comes down that the new king is looking to find any surviving heirs of the previous king.  There can be only one conclusion as to reason for the search: the new king must want to execute any rivals in order to strengthen his grip on the throne!

II Samuel 8: Winning A Name For Himself

Everything is going David's way.  As this chapter testifies, "The Lord gave victory to David wherever he went" (vs. 14).  Those pacified by David and his forces include the Philistines (vs. 1), the Moabites (vs. 2), the Zobahites (vs. 3-4), the Arameans (vs. 5-6), and the Edomites (vs. 13-14).  It's a good day to be a Jew!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Psalm 91: Protection Or Presumption?

Psalm 91 contains some of the most beautiful images and comforting promises to be found in the entire Bible.  Is it any surprise, then, that Satan would twist something so glorious for his own ends?

Friday, October 16, 2015

II Samuel 7: Who's Building Who A House?

An inspiration strikes David one day that leads to God establishing an everlasting covenant with him.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

II Samuel 6: Going To Extremes

II Samuel 6 is all about the Ark of the Covenant, and the effect that it has on David and his people.

II Samuel 5: Glory Days

The victories are coming fast and furious for David in II Samuel 5.  Three big events happened during this season of his life that could be called his "glory days."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

II Samuel 4: Killing The Messenger

Even in the ancient world, news traveled fast.  When it did, messengers hoped to be rewarded for good news, and to be able to escape with their lives if the report was bad.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

II Samuel 3: Palace Intrigue

A shifting of Abner's loyalties from Ishbaal to David helps put into motion the machinery by which David will become king over all Israel, yet also ends up costing Abner his life at the hands of Joab.

Monday, October 12, 2015

II Samuel 2: The Interlude Of Ishbaal

After the death of Saul, David did not become king over Israel immediately.  The first thing that happened is that David felt led of the Lord to move his forces from the Philistine city of Ziklag to Hebron in Judah.  While Judah quickly anointed David as their king, Saul's son Ishbaal reigned over the other tribes of Israel for another two years (vs. 10).

Sunday, October 11, 2015

II Samuel 1: How The Mighty Have Fallen!

Loyal to Saul to the end, David is grief-stricken when he hears of the death of the king and the prince.  He composes a lamentation to be sung in their memory, and commands that it be taught to the people of Israel.  It contains an expression which has since become famous: How the mighty have fallen!  Here it refers to the champions of Israel, Saul and Jonathan, killed in battle upon Mount Gilboa.  David is especially overwrought by the death of his intimate friend, Jonathan.  When an Amalekite tries to take credit for killing Saul, perhaps expecting a reward from David for this service, the son of Jesse instead orders the man himself killed for daring to strike down the Lord's anointed.  The death of Saul and his family is not a cause for celebration for David, but a reason to grieve deeply, in addition to mourning the overall loss of Israel's battle with the Philistines.

Psalm 90: God Is Timeless; We Are Temporary

Psalm 90 is ascribed to Moses, who knew a thing or two about the Lord.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I Samuel 28: Small Medium At Large

Do you believe in psychics and seances?  The Bible contains fairly clear(*) teaching on this subject: there is indeed a reality to such things, but God's people are not permitted to avail themselves of them.

I Samuel 27: The Enemy Of My Enemy

It is ironic that David feels the safest place for him to go is Gath - the hometown of the Philistine champion Goliath that David killed back in chapter 17!

Monday, October 5, 2015

I Samuel 26: Spearing Saul - Or Sparing Him?

I Samuel 26 may sound awfully familiar if you've been reading this book from start to finish.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I Samuel 25: Leave It To The Lord

David learned an important spiritual lesson in I Samuel 25.  Rather than taking vengeance ourselves for injuries and insults we suffer, we should leave it to the Lord.

Psalm 89: Making Sense Of God's Silence

The Psalms frequently question, "How long, O Lord?" (vs. 46)  It is a plea that rises up from a discouraged and beaten-down heart, lifted up to a God that is not understood, Whose silence and inaction are inexplicable.

Friday, October 2, 2015

I Samuel 24: Saul In David's Hands

What would you do if God put your worst enemy into your hands?

I Samuel 23: Saul The Pursuer

As you read the Psalms, you will find many written by David when he was on the run from Saul (Psalm 54 may have been composed during the events of this chapter.)  Saul's pursuit of David never resulted in the young man's capture, but it did unleash the heart of David in worship and prayer to God for deliverance, a treasure of writings that we can still enjoy millennia later.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I Samuel 22: You Dirty Doeg!

One of the villains in the Old Testament is Doeg the Edomite who ratted out David to Saul and then killed the priests of the Lord at Saul's bidding.

I Samuel 21: On The Run!

In chapter 21, David is scrambling to figure out how to live a life on the lam.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Samuel 20: Keep Your Friends Close But Your Enemies Closer

Saul is starting to become seriously unhinged.  What was at first envy and jealousy of his junior associate David has blossomed into full-fledged paranoia.  He wants David dead.  David is aware that Saul is out to get him, but Jonathan doesn't see the evil in his father.  Jonathan and David make a pact - a covenant - to watch out for each other.

I Samuel 19: Getting By With A Little Help From His Friends

It's a good thing that David had so many friendships and relationships to draw upon - he relied numerous times upon the good will of others to save his life from Saul's murderous rage!

I Samuel 18: Everybody Loves David

David had high - but not quite unanimous - approval ratings.  In fact, it seems like the only who didn't love David was King Saul.

Monday, September 28, 2015

I Samuel 17: The Battle Belongs To The Lord

I Samuel 17 is a classic David-and-Goliath story.  In fact, it is THE David and Goliath story!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Psalm 88: A Cry For Help

The psalmist of Psalm 88 sounds like he has led a very difficult life.  From his youth, he has been close to death (vs. 15) and even now, he is counted among the dying (vs. 4).  His friends consider him helpless and hopeless.  Rather than seeing light, he feels darkness all around him.  He even blames God for this!  Yet that doesn't stop him from turning to the Lord and calling out in prayer to God both day  (vs. 13) and night (vs. 1).  He is asking God to deliver him and preserve his life.  Even though very little has gone right for him in life, he is looking in the right place now as he cries out to God for help.  Have you ever been like this psalmist and called out to the Lord for help from the depths of your spirit?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I Samuel 16: The Rise Of David

God was being completely serious when said He was rejecting Saul as king.  Samuel the prophet is thus given a new assignment: Anoint the next king of Israel.

I Samuel 15: The Fall Of Saul

Which do you think God prefers?  Generous sacrificial giving or faithful obedience to His commands?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Samuel 14: Jonathan's Eating Gets Him In Trouble

In the midst of a fierce battle with the Philistines, Saul makes a rash oath.  He calls out, "Cursed be anyone who eats food before it is evening and I have been avenged on my enemies" (vs. 24).  Saul issued this oath probably thinking that it would inspire his men to fight hard and diligently.  Yet little did he know the problems he would cause himself with that statement!

I Samuel 13: Saul's Presumption

Ever wonder why the Bible talks so much about King David and relatively little about King Saul?  Saul made some mistakes along the way that led to his rejection by God from the kingship.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I Samuel 12: The End Of One Age - And The Dawn Of Another

Samuel is widely regarded as a transitional figure.  He is the last in a long line of Judges that ruled over the Hebrews from the time of the Conquest, and he is the anointer of the first King(s) of Israel as the nation sets up a new governmental system of a monarchy.  I Samuel 12 is his valedictory address where he takes his leave of public life, giving the people a final speech filled with history lessons, warnings, and encouragements to follow the Lord.

I Samuel 11: ...And There Was Much Rejoicing

Saul's kingship gets off to a great start in I Samuel 11.  The Israelites had wanted a king, after all, to unite them and help organize their defenses against enemies.  Saul does precisely this in compelling fashion.

Monday, September 21, 2015

I Samuel 10: Long Live The King!

At first blush, Saul appears to be a rather reluctant king.  When talking with his uncle, he doesn't say anything about Samuel's anointing of him to be king (vs. 16), and when all Israel gathers for the choosing of the king by lot, Saul hides himself among the baggage (vs. 22).

I Samuel 9: Tall Saul And The King Thing

Now that God has decided to let Israel have a king, the issue becomes: who will that be?  Who will Samuel anoint?  I Samuel 9 provides the answer to that question.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Psalm 87: Born On Zion's Hill

Psalm 87 may be short (only 7 verses), but it packs a powerful punch for those who love Jerusalem.  We see credit given to God for Zion's founding (vs. 1), and His special affection for this city above all others (vs. 2).  Of particular note in this psalm is the value ascribed to those who trace their beginning to Jerusalem.  Whether a person's birth (vs. 5-6) or the spring of their song and dance (vs. 7), Zion's hill is a source of great blessings!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Samuel 8: Be Careful What You Wish For!

I Samuel 8 opens with the very real possibility of history repeating itself.  The previous generation saw Eli and his two corrupt sons lead to the downfall of Israel.  Now Samuel is old and his two sons are also not the man their father is.  They are taking bribes and perverting justice.  Will Samuel repeat the neglectful mistakes of Eli?

I Samuel 7: Who Fights Your Battles?

Leave it to the Philistines to attack Israel during worship!  (As a pastor, I personally find that to be a very low blow.)  Fortunately, their military tactic failed and they ended up routed before God rather than victorious over His people - and all of it was thanks to the help of the Lord!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Samuel 6: The Ark Goes Home

After seven months of reaping only disaster from their capture of the Ark, the Philistines are apparently ready to wash their hands of the whole thing.  They hatch a plan to put the Ark on a cart, along with a guilt offering of five gold mice and five gold tumors.  The cart is to be guided by two dairy cows who had never before been yoked and who are missing their calves penned up back home.  The Philistines watch in amazement as the cows promptly set out to return the Ark to Israel.  The Philistines realize that, rather than standing in opposition to God and bearing the heavy cost of a plague of tumors, they are farther ahead to let the Ark return to their enemies.  In this chapter, the Ark makes its journey home from Philistia to the Israelite towns of Beth-shemesh and Kiriath-jearim.

I Samuel 5: God vs. Dagon

I love the veiled message of I Samuel 5!  Even when His people are defeated militarily, God is greater than any of the false gods of the surrounding nations.  Here the Philistines are rejoicing at their great victory of the previous chapter in defeating the Israelites and capturing their "god" (i.e. the Ark of the Covenant).  But what happens next shows that the Lord is well able to defend Himself and guard His name.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I Samuel 4: Ichabod

When you hear the name "Ichabod," chances are you think of a tale about a headless horseman and Sleepy Hollow.  The name originally appears in the Bible, however, and is rooted in a story about one of the greatest disasters to ever befall Israel.

I Samuel 3: Eli's Sin Of Omission

I Samuel 3 is usually remembered for its charming account of the midnight calling of the young prophet Samuel - but it also conveys a stark warning of the dangers of tolerated sin.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Samuel 2: Shades Of Jesus Christ!

The unifying link between the Testaments and, indeed, within the entire Bible is the Person of Jesus Christ.  What the Old Testament longingly looks forward to is realized in the advent of our Savior.  I Samuel 2 is a prime example of an ordinary chapter buried in the historical books of the Bible that contains several prescient reference to the coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I Samuel 1: A Special Child

There are several characteristics that made Samuel a special child, one who was to have a strong influence and leadership role over the nation of Israel.

Psalm 86: Finding Theology In The Psalms

How do we know what we know about God?  Christians believe in the Bible as our source and authority regarding matters of faith.  But it is important to keep in mind that the Bible is composed of many different types of literature, called genres, which all have their own strengths and limitations when it comes to teaching us about God.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ruth 4: Ruth Finds A Husband

The Book of Ruth takes us from a posture of gloom, grief, and bitterness in the first chapter to a celebration of new life and hope for the future in the last.  It is most certainly a beautiful story of redemption!

Ruth 3: Something More Than Friendship

Ruth 3 escalates the relationship between Boaz and Ruth.  Whereas formerly the older gentleman was charitably looking out for a young widow who was a foreigner to his country, he is now surreptitiously approached by her at night on the threshing floor with deeper intentions.

Ruth 2: Ruth Finds A Friend

Sometimes coincidences are exactly that: mere coincidences.  At other times, however, coincidences reveal the hand of God working behind the scenes.

Ruth 1: When The Going Gets Tough

The first chapter of Ruth is bleak.  It tells the story of a woman who is forced to migrate to another nation due to a famine in her home country.  Over the next decade, she loses her husband to death, followed by her two sons.  All she has left is her foreign daughters-in-law.  It's no wonder that she changes her name from Naomi (meaning, "my joy" and "pleasant") to Mara (meaning "bitter").

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Judges 21: Problem Solved!

You really have to give the Israelites credit.  They had unwittingly placed themselves in a real bind but were able to find a creative way out of their dilemma.

Judges 20: Tribe Vs. Tribes

When the rest of Israel hears about the atrocity that happened at Gibeah in Benjamin, they are enraged.  They gather in mass at Mizpah to plan their response.

Judges 19: An Israelite Horror Story

Shades of Sodom!  The story recounted in Judges 19 is enough to shock even the most jaded cynic.  Certainly, the depths to which Israel has sunk means that something has gone very, very wrong in the Promised Land.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Judges 18: From Personal Religion To Tribal Faith

Micah's little household god operation didn't stay little for long.  As it turns out, the tribe of Dan caught wind of his personal religion and, when they felt it was worth something to them, took it for their own and made it the center of their tribal faith!

Judges 17: Personal Religion

Judges 17 demonstrates the growing religious corruption taking place as the nation continues its slide away from the Law of Moses.  As time passes from the Exodus and the Conquest, the Israelites forget the lessons and laws against idolatry.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Psalm 85: What God's Love Looks Like

Psalm 85 is a very descriptive psalm.  The psalmist is yearning for the restoration of Israel: for God's forgiveness and mercy to be poured out upon the nation.  What will that look like when it happens?  We receive a beautiful picture of God's love in the last four verses:  "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.  Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.  Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps."  If you, too, are yearning for God's love, may Psalm 85 encourage you with its radiant description of that reality!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Judges 16: Samson's End

After seeing Samson's poor track record with women, it is no surprise that his undoing came through the treachery of a woman.

Judges 15: Samson > 1000 Men

Samson has a reputation for being "the strongest man who ever lived."  While that claim is not expressly stated in the Bible, stories like the ones we find in Judges 15 can help us believe it!

Judges 14: Happily Never After

I've officiated some rough weddings in my time, but none of them compares to the disaster of Samson's nuptials with the Philistine woman from Timnah!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Judges 13: Birth Announcements

How often in scripture do we see a holy figure announcing the glad tidings of an imminent birth?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Judges 12: Ephraim vs. Gilead

As foreseen in the time of Joshua, the Israelite tribes divided by the Jordan River are susceptible to grave misunderstandings between them and sometimes fall into a civil war.  Such is the case in Judges 12 when Ephraim goes to war against Gilead.  This episode also became the source for a term that is used to describe the sorting out of whether one truly belongs in a group of people.

Judges 11: But I Thought The Lord Didn't Require Human Sacrifice!

What are we to make of the strange, tragic tale of Jephthah and his daughter, who he apparently offered up as a burnt offering to the Lord?

Judges 10: More Judges - And Judgment!

And the cycle goes on.  Israel continues to receive deliverance through judges, yet then turn their back on the Lord after they are rescued.  In this chapter, God reveals that He is beginning to get a little tired of their continual faithlessness.

Judges 9: The First King Of Israel?

You may know that Saul is traditionally viewed as the first monarch of Israel.  However, Judges 9 tells the story of Gideon's son Abimelech who held a brief tenure as "king" during the time of the Judges.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Psalm 84: Want To Be Happy?

Want to be happy?  (And I'm not talking about one of the seven dwarfs here!)  Psalm 84 contains valuable advice and wisdom for those pursuing happiness in life.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Judges 6: Mighty Warrior?

Gideon is someone you may be able to relate to.  Called by God to do something great (and scary!), Gideon is unsure and nervous.  Yet God is able to use Gideon's weakness to showcase His strength!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Judges 5: Preserved In Song

Have you ever learned anything through music?  Maybe the "alphabet song" or the "nifty fifty" United States?  How about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its imagery of the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812?  Songs have a unique way of impressing their lyrics upon us and embedding themselves in our memory.  We may come to learn something better when it taps into our sense of hearing and rhythm.

Judges 4: Women To The Rescue!

While much of the Bible consists of the stories of men and their exploits, there are passages to be found that extol that contributions that women have made.  Judges 4 is one such chapter, highlighting the surprising work of Deborah and Jael.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Judges 3: T.M.I.!

You've heard the expression "TMI", haven't you?  Too Much Information?  We have a little TMI going on in Judges 3!

Judges 2: Cycles

"Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them.  But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshiping them and bowing down to them.  They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways" (vs. 18-19).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Judges 1: A Mixed Bag

As the torch is passed to a new generation and the settling of the Promised Land continues, Judges 1 shows us that the results are "a mixed bag."  Judah, along with Simeon, appears to be the most successful in acquiring most of their territory - but it wasn't a complete victory, either.  Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain (vs. 19.)  The other tribes fell into a wary co-existence with the people that had been living in the land, in many cases putting them to forced labor - but keeping them within their borders.  Despite the repeated warnings that the non-Israelites would become a snare for them, Israel permitted them to remain.  The tribe of Dan seemed to have the worst time of it.  They were pushed back by the Amorites into the hill country.  The stage is now set for what will follow in the Book of Judges.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Joshua 24: Generational Choices

On the wall of my living room hangs a large plaque which reads, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  The inspiration for that saying comes directly from this chapter of holy scripture.

Joshua 23: God Keeps His Word

As the end of his life draws near, Joshua calls a final assembly of Israel and shares both good news and bad news with them.  The good news is that God keeps His word.  The bad news is that God keeps His word.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Psalm 83: Get 'Em, God!

There are usually two different requests that a psalmist may make of the Lord.  Sometimes the psalmist seeks God's protection and blessing; sometimes he asks God to smite his enemies.  Psalm 83 is definitely a case of the latter.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Joshua 22: Parting Of The Ways

It is time for farewells and a parting of the ways.  The occasion has arrived in Joshua 22 for those tribes that had settled east of the Jordan (Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh) to return home.  Canaan having been pacified and divided among the other tribes, these easterners had now fulfilled their vow to fight for Israel and were free to return to the region known as Gilead.  Along the way, however, a major misunderstanding threatened to bring war between the tribes!

Joshua 21: Leave It To Levites

After hashing out the allotment of the land to the tribes and then establishing which towns would serve as "cities of refuge," there is one other detail needing Joshua's attention: the Levites!

Joshua 20: The Beauty Of Refuge

As soon as the land is divided up - and even before the Levites are given their towns - the Lord reminds Joshua of the law concerning cities of refuge.

Joshua 19: Journey's End

For the remaining six tribes, the long journey from slavery in Egypt through the Exodus, the Red Sea, Mount Sinai, 40 years in the wilderness, the crossing of the Jordan, and the conquest of Canaan comes to its completion here in Joshua 19 when they finally receive their inheritance.  Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan (and, for good measure, Joshua, too!) all find out what territory will be theirs.  It has been about 46 years in the making, but a nation is home at last.

Joshua 18: Lots For Lots

I grew up in the country, but lived near a little neighborhood that was referred to as "the allotment."  I didn't really understand the literal definition of that word.  I just realized that if you lived in "the allotment," it meant you had close neighbors!

Joshua 17: The Squeaky Wheel

It never fails.  Whenever something has to be distributed, cries of "Unfair!" are sure to be heard.  In the case of the dispensation of the Promised Land, the tribe of Joseph decides to lodge a complaint about their inheritance.

Joshua 16: Boundary Lines

You may think that this section of Joshua does not make for the most scintillating reading.  Old place names and boundary markers sound like rather dry and dusty stuff.  Yet try to imagine this in a contemporary context.  If someone were to come to you and ask where your property lines are, I would imagine you'd be able to tell them!  Even today, boundary disputes are issues that can lead to conflict and skirmishes and wars (see Russia/Ukraine, North Korea/South Korea, China/Taiwan, the porous southern border of the United States, etc.)  Boundary lines are always a relevant issue, even more so for the Ancient Near East where land is a central focus of life and God has staked the Promised Land to Israel.  The people needed to know where the boundaries for their tribe lay, and they devoted a lot of time and attention to such matters (as we still do today.)

Joshua 15: Judah = South

Joshua 15 deals with the land allotment given to the largest tribe, Judah.  Judah receives the southernmost extension of the Promised Land.  It includes the city of the Jebusites, unconquered for now (vs. 63).  The city will eventually fall to David and become Jerusalem.  Later on, when a civil war will divide the tribes, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin will form the southern kingdom known as Judah, later called Judea in the New Testament era.

Joshua 14: The Other Spy

"Twelve men went to spy out Canaan, ten were bad and two were good."  Do you remember hearing that old Sunday School tune?  One of the "good" spies was, of course, Joshua who is now leading the people in Moses' stead.  The other spy who was "good" is a man named Caleb.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Joshua 13: Promises Kept

Back in the 1990s when I was first starting out in ministry, there was a national movement among men called "Promise Keepers" which held stadium rallies and produced discipleship material.  This organization encouraged men to be "promise keepers" in their homes, churches and communities.  Our model in this was God, who has always been the ultimate "Promise Keeper."  When we hear such famous phrases as the "Promised Land," we must remember that this wasn't like some empty campaign promise.  It was actually a sacred promise made and realized.  The keeping of this promise is what the large section of Joshua 13-21 tells us about.

Psalm 82: A Bit Of A Mystery

Psalm 82 has always been a bit of a puzzler for me.  While brief, it is a little difficult to understand just what is going on.

Joshua 12: Recap

Joshua 12 presents a recap of the territories and leaders that were overthrown by the Israelites, first under Moses and then under Joshua.  This is part of their national history, just as American students might learn the names of Bunker Hill, Gettysburg or Normandy.  In a war for their very survival, Israel emerged victorious and displaced the nations that had been living in the land.  You might say that the "visiting team" won!  And they didn't win just once - they won 31 times over and firmly established their presence in the land.  Their descendants are still there today, over 30 centuries later.  Certainly some would consider the nation of Israel and its staying power in the face of overwhelming odds through the millennia to be proof of God's activity in human history and his special interest in the Jews.  I know I would.

Joshua 11: Justifying Genocide?


Some people are troubled by the idea of the sun and moon standing still in Joshua 10.  Others are even more troubled by God's command to wipe out entire cities like we find in Joshua 11, among other places.  What are we to make of the Bible's apparent justification of genocide?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Joshua 10: The Longest Day?

I know many people who complain about having a long day: the student taking her final examinations, the doctor performing a series of difficult surgeries, the pastor with a day loaded full of services, sessions, meetings and classes.  None of them have anything on the longest day ever that the Israelites had back in Joshua 10!

Joshua 9: Masquerade

The Israelites are not the only ones who know how to pull the wool over the eyes of their enemies!

Joshua 8: If At First You Don't Succeed...

With the sin of Achan dealt with, God reveals to Joshua that the city of Ai will now fall to the Israelites on their second attempt, because the Lord is once again on their side.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Joshua 6: Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho

God's military strategy is unlike any other.  The battle plan calls for marching, blowing trumpets, and shouting.  Yet it worked.

Joshua 5: Homecoming

Three interesting things happen in Joshua 5 to move the people closer to their goal of being established in Canaan as the Lord's covenant people.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Joshua 4: Jordan-Henge

In a preliterate society, it would be challenging to find a way to preserve information for future generations.  To mark the significance of the Israelites entering the Promised Land in a miraculous way, the Lord instructs Joshua to set up twelve stones from the Jordan River at Gilgal.  (Gilgal literally means "circle of standing stones.")  These stones are meant to bear testimony for coming ages.  "When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord.  When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever" (vs. 6-7).  Joshua relays this word from the Lord to the Israelites in verses 21 and 22.  The stones thus became an enduring witness to God's power and faithfulness.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Joshua 3: Israel On The Move!

The time has come at last!  Israel sets out from Shittim and makes camp on the banks of the Jordan.  Now they are finally ready to receive their inheritance.  With Joshua in command and the priests going on before carrying the Ark, God has yet one more miracle up his sleeve.  When the priests get their feet wet in the Jordan, the river stops flowing upstream so that the nation may walk over on dry land (vs. 14-17).  The people all pass by the Ark in the middle of the dried-up Jordan, giving them a sure sign that the Lord is with them.

Joshua 2: When Your Reputation Precedes You

I have always maintained that the Bible is not a book that anyone would think to sit down and write.  There are too many twists and surprises which give it a stamp of authenticity.  So it is with the ironic tale of Rahab, the heroine prostitute!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Joshua 1: Strong And Courageous

Transitions can be tricky.  Whether it's the quadrennial Inauguration Day in the United States where one leader of the free world is succeeding another, or whether a company, church or team is simply receiving a new CEO, pastor or coach, people watch the smoothness of the hand-off for clues to the future success of the organization.  Fortunately, everyone seemed to understand and support Joshua as he took on the incredibly challenging role of the leader of Israel, following Moses and charged to take the people into battle across the Jordan.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Deuteronomy 34: The End Of Moses?

Moses occupies a central place in the pantheon of biblical heroes, and is indisputably one of the main characters within Judaism.  His scriptural epitaph reads, "Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.  He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel" (vs. 10-12).  Moses certainly left an impression, along with awfully big sandals for Joshua to fill.