Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 22 December 2022:
1 Chronicles 17:2 – “And Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.’”
We must be careful not to confuse our thoughts with God’s thoughts or our judgments with God’s. Just because we think it makes sense doesn’t mean it is what God wants. David sought Nathan’s spiritual guidance on an important decision on what seemed like a good idea, and Nathan spoke for God without actually consulting God – “…God is with you.” In fact, God’s will was exactly opposite to Nathan’s counsel – “It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in.” (1 Chronicles 17:4).
“But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan….” Don’t presume to know the thoughts and will of God without prayerfully consulting His word. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23) Though it often seems innocent, presumption places our thoughts and ideas higher than God’s word and is often motivated by internal ambitions disguised as worship – ‘I want to do great things… for the Lord, of course.’ Remember, David’s oldest brother Eliab angrily accused David of “presumption” when David took provisions to his brothers who were fighting on the front lines (1 Samuel 17:28). At the time, Eliab’s criticism seemed misplaced, but looking at David’s ultimate failures as a leader, perhaps Eliab saw this character flaw in David when others, including David, couldn’t. God doesn’t need you to do great things for Him. He just wants you to do what He told you to do. Rather than building temples, forgive and love others unconditionally while remaining pure. Not only is truly loving much harder than building big things, it also has a far greater impact.
1 Chronicles 17:6 — In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’
Again, self-centeredness and ambition often motivate us to ‘worship’ God in ways that give us glory and a sense of righteousness, causing us to do ‘religious’ things and acts of ‘service’ God never asked us to do while neglecting the things God called us to do. So often our ‘good deeds’ are motivated by a desire to prove to ourselves and others how good we are while we pretend to be humble about it – “It was all God, not me, but thank you for the recognition.” We will soon read how David’s son, Solomon, the wisest man that had ever lived in his day, allowed his ambitions to lead him astray from God’s simple commands, ultimately resulting in Israel’s permanent division. The Book of Ecclesiastes describes how Solomon eventually realized at the end of his years that all his pursuits and accomplishments were nothing but worthless vanities. We should take heed to his ultimate conclusion: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12-14) Our command from God, our mission, our calling is simple to understand, but very hard to do — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12) “For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” (Luke 9:48)
1 Chronicles 17:7 — Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture….
In David’s vein attempt to do great things for God, David is reminded by God through Nathan that God’s covenant with David depends on God’s greatness, love, faithfulness, grace, and provision, not David’s. In God’s response to David, notice how often God says what He has or will do, while not mentioning anything David will do: “I took you from the pasture…. I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you…. I will make for you a name…. I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them…. I appointed judges over my people Israel…. I will subdue all your enemies…. I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house…. I will raise up your offspring after you…. I will establish his kingdom…. I will establish his throne forever…. I will be to him a father…. I will not take my steadfast love from him….” Over twenty times in this short section of the Bible, God points out that it is He who takes the initiative and who secures our salvation in Him, and we live by His grace as He fulfills His purposes for us. We must merely submit to His Lordship in loving obedience to receive the abundance of His blessings. Again, there is no need to wear yourself out trying to earn favor with God or trying to do what He never asked you to do in order to prove yourself. Just love, obey, and enjoy Him.
Revelation 16:6 — For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets.
God allows the persecution of His people that sinners might come either to repentance or judgment. God’s people are perfectly loved and blessed by God nonetheless. Our reward is not prosperity on earth; our reward is Him. In Him is the fullness of eternal joy, which can never be taken from us:
- John 17:3 — And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
- Romans 8:31-39 — What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Revelation 16:7 – And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”
God’s judging acts are true to His character and promises, and righteous in restoring justice.
Revelation 16:10, 11 — People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.
The unrepentant sinner receives the consequences of his sins and blames God.
Revelation 16:12-16 – The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
God prepares the way for the final battle in the Valley of Megiddo. In all situations, God is Sovereign. Armageddon is not the end of the story. Read on….
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 December 2022: Today, make your great ambition love. If you want to do something truly amazing, even miraculous, something rarely seen on earth through all of human history, truly love others selflessly with no recognition from others. Prioritize character (what God knows about you no one else knows) rather than reputation (what others say about you). Follow the example of Christ by making your self nothing for the sake of others who don’t deserve the grace you would give them in the Name of Christ as a testimony to the Gospel.
- Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
- Philippians 2:1-11 — So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.