Wash, and Be Clean

To me, some of the most intriguing passages in the gospels are when Jesus marvels at somebody.  Here He is, the One who searches the hearts, God made flesh, astounded by some facet of human behavior.  People can make the Almighty shake His head in amazement.  We are indeed marvelously perverse creatures!

In particular, this perversity manifests itself in our ability to simultaneously desire some blessing from God yet refuse to do what God asks in order to receive the blessing.  This doesn’t make a lick of sense, yet it’s been evident for thousands of years.  Continue reading

Limping Between Two Opinions

The story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is one of the most famous in the book of 1 Kings.  Even though the direction of the book is generally downward, 1 Kings 18 contains a moment of spiritual triumph.

However, even before the triumph takes place, there are still lessons for us to learn.  Particularly, in 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah says to the people, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal, follow him.” Continue reading

The Young Prophet and the Old Prophet

One of the strangest stories in the entire Old Testament appears in 1 Kings 13.  In this story, God sends a young prophet to curse the idolatrous altar that Jeroboam has built at Bethel.  God has told him not to eat or drink until he returns to Judah.  On his way home, though, the young prophet encounters an old prophet who lies to him, claiming that an angel has told him that the young prophet is supposed to eat in the old prophet’s house.

The young prophet agrees to come with him, and in mid-meal, the old prophet prophesies that the young prophet will die because of his disobedience.  Indeed, on the way home, the young prophet is attacked and killed by a lion.  The old prophet, so far as we know, is never punished, even though his lie cost the life of another. Continue reading

Solomon and God’s Dwelling Place

Most Christians know that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer.  However, there is considerable disagreement about what this means.  Does the Spirit indwell us in a personal, literal sense, or is there considerably more metaphor involved?

In our search for an answer to this question, 1 Kings 8 is one of the more useful texts in the Bible.  Even though in it, Solomon is concerned with what it means for God to dwell in His temple, New-Testament authors (particularly Paul) frequently borrow temple language to explore the dwelling of the Spirit in us. Continue reading

Praying for Wisdom

 

The story of Solomon is ultimately a tragic one, but we shouldn’t get so caught up in the end that we forget the beginning.  The Bible details the reigns of dozens of kings, but the beginning of Solomon’s story is unique.  He offers sacrifices at the great high place at Gibeon (even though the ark is outside Jerusalem, the tabernacle and the rest of its furnishings are at Gibeon), and in response, God appears to him in a vision and says, “Ask me for anything.”

Unprompted, driven entirely by his own humility and his sense of inadequacy for the task before him, Solomon asks for wisdom.  His answer pleases God so much that He blesses him with all the other attributes of a great king too. Continue reading

Handling a Troublemaker

The Bible is full of epithets that capture the character of a man.  David is “a man after God’s own heart”.  Abraham is “the friend of God”.  Moses is “the servant of God”.  Equally telling (though not as flattering) is the description of Sheba the Bichrite, who is presented in 2 Samuel 20:1 as, “a worthless man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri.”  Continue reading

The Power of Example

In many ways, it’s hard to write about David without also writing about his sin with Bathsheba.  The story of the sin itself is significant, but its consequences shape the rest of David’s life.  Indeed, in 2 Samuel 12, Nathan prophesies that the same sort of things will happen to David that David did to Uriah.  He will be betrayed by those close to him, and his wives will be taken by another man. Continue reading

Sin and Lying to Ourselves

Even though David was a man after God’s own heart, the narrative of his life is dominated, more than any other single event, by his sin with Bathsheba.  One of the great heroes of Scripture is led by lust to commit adultery and murder.  This was disastrous for David, and it should be sobering for us.  If he fell so spectacularly, can any of us imagine that we are above falling? Continue reading

God Doesn’t Need Our Help

David was a man after God’s own heart, but even a heart that sincerely desires to serve can lead us astray.  We see David betrayed by his good intentions in 1 Samuel 7.  There, he decides that, now that he has constructed his own palace, he ought to build a permanent temple for God.

To human wisdom, this sounds like a great idea.  It’s only fair to give God a dwelling place equal to David’s, right?  Even the prophet Nathan endorses it.

However, God disagrees.  He points out to David that never did He instruct His people to build him a house of cedar (note that the implication of silence here is, “Don’t do it.”).  In fact, David has it backwards.  David isn’t going to build God a house.  God is going to build David a house, an enduring line of kingly descendants.  This promise culminates in the Christ being born of the lineage of David. Continue reading

Strengthening Ourselves in God

The fame of David will probably continue for as long as the world does, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to swap lives with him.  Of the various highs and lows of the life of David, perhaps the lowest point comes in 1 Samuel 30:1-6.  By this point, Saul’s paranoia has driven David out of Israel entirely, even though he has done nothing wrong.  In the previous chapter, David’s new overlord, Achish king of Gath, shows that he doesn’t trust David either, even though David once again has done nothing wrong.  This does not bode well for David’s future with Achish! Continue reading