Sovereign

SOVEREIGN: Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion.

I doubt many of us have anyone in our lives we’d consider to be supreme in power or possessing supreme dominion. And most of us would probably like to keep it that way. But one man, a very long time ago, recognised someone as supreme—sovereign.

What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign Lord.

2 Samuel 7:20 (NIV)

This wasn’t the only time David referred to God as Sovereign Lord, either. Seven times in this passage, David repeats the moniker.

Maybe you’re a believer in the meaning behind numbers in the Bible, maybe you’re not. But no matter how you put it, saying something seven times over the span of eleven verses seems rather significant, and maybe more so because of the importance of the number seven.

Seven, you see, is the number of completion or spiritual perfection. We see it first in Genesis. On the seventh day, God rested because creation was complete. In the account of David, God has just announced to the king though the prophet, Nathan, that David’s kingdom will endure forever. God has made an everlasting covenant, a covenant that will never be broken. That’s some pretty weighty news for a man who was anointed king as a shepherd boy in the field.

David responds by referring to God as Sovereign Lord, acknowledging God’s supreme dominion over him. For many men, news that their lineage would last forever could have gone straight to their heads. But not David.

Do as you promised, so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

2 Samuel 7:25b-26 (NIV)

Hundreds of years before Jesus arrived on the earth, God’s covenant with man was made and acknowledged to be complete by the man with whom the covenant was made. David couldn’t have known that his lineage wouldn’t sit on an earthly throne forever. Nor could he have known that God Himself would plant a seed in one of his descendants. A seed that would grow up to be known as the Son of David.

God, though, being sovereign, knew exactly what He was doing when He made such a great promise to David. He set in motion an extravagant plan to save mankind from their sinfulness. Unlike David, God knew that the man with whom He made a covenant would stumble and fall. So would his son who succeeded him on the throne. And so would countless others in the long line of King David.

Yet it wasn’t so much the obedience that God was looking for—He knew the standards He set before men were impossible to keep, but He was looking for willing humility.

For the Lord takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with salvation.

Psalm 149:4 (NIV)

David’s humility earned him a crown which led to salvation for all. Like David, we can never know the far reaching effects of our willingness to set ourselves aside and acknowledge God as Sovereign Lord, supreme in power. The best that we can do is humble ourselves before the Lord, accept what He has so freely given to us, and continue to chase after his heart like David did.

Read: 2 Samuel 7-9, Luke 19:1-28

Know that it is good

Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul, spear in hand, was seated under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeath, with all his officials standing around him. Saul said to them, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.”

1 Samuel 22:6-8 (NIV)

This sounds like the rant of a madman. It is the rant of a madman. Jealousy can be a powerful motivator. Saul saw David as a great threat to his rule over Israel and sought to destroy him. He allowed his jealousy, anger, and rage to consume him. Instead of ruling the nation as he had been anointed to do, Saul took his best men and went running around the countryside seeking to kill the man who had once been the only one who could calm him.

David, on the run, had long ago been anointed as the next king of Israel. The present king was doing all that he could to prevent David from ascending the throne. At one point, David had ample opportunity to take Saul’s life, and thus, the throne. His men would have followed him that day in the cave had David chosen to relieve Saul of his life while Saul relieved himself. But that would have made David just like Saul.

Saul had once been an honourable man. Anointed as king over Israel, he started off well, but soon took matters into his own hands rather than leaving them in God’s hand. God had already taken his anointing from Saul’s familial line. David, the man who chased after God’s heart, would be the start of a line of royalty that would not only last for generations, but for eternity.

But all of that could have easily been cast away had David chosen to kill Saul instead of trim his robe. David took the path of humility over the path of vengeance. Just one of many instances that earned him the eternal bloodline.

He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you?’ This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.'”

1 Samuel 24:9 (NIV)

David’s faithfulness and his haste to repentance when he wasn’t so faithful allowed God to continue to work through him. By continuing to seek the Lord rather than pursue his own desired, God was able to make Israel great and, eventually make a way to save the whole world. David’s obedience and faithfulness to God far outlasted his own lifetime. It spared many generations to follow—all the way to Jesus, who came to save all generations.

Just as David could not fathom all that God had planned for his lineage, we cannot even begin to understand the plans God has for us. We can live in the moment and take the path of least resistance, or we can live for the prize God has set before us.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

That prize that Paul was talking about is our green card, our citizenship in heaven. I can guarantee that there will be opportunities to take the easy way—like Saul in the save before David—but I can also guarantee that there is another way. We can’t know all that God has planned for us and how it will affect the generations to come. But we can trust in His plan and know that it is good.

Read: 1 Samuel 22-24, Luke 16:1-18

It’s in His genes

“You are so much like your mother.” I’ve heard that phrase many times in my life. Back when my mother and I both worked for the same company, I’d answer the phone only to have the person on the other end of the line go into a long conversation about a department I had nothing to do with. Over the phone, I’ve even had my father call me sweetheart—a term reserved only for my mother. I sound just like my mom. I look like her, too. And she looks like her mom. Who looks like her mom. I know exactly what I’m going to look like if I reach my 101st birthday. It’s in my genes.

Jesus had something in his genes. Royalty, for one. After all, he was referred to as the son of David. He came from a heritage of kings. But Jesus had more than royalty in his lineage. He had redemption.

Long before Jesus, there was David. And long before David, there was a woman named Ruth. Ruth was from Moab, but she married an Israelite. When her husband died, she returned with her mother-in-law to the land of her husband.

In Israel, there was a law that stated if a widow was childless, the nearest male relative to her deceased husband would marry her to produce an heir. This man (usually a brother, but not always) was known as the go’el or kinsman-redeemer.

Ruth’s husband’s family had land in Israel. It was a part of the inheritance the family received upon entering the Promised Land. The land would forever belong to the family so long as there was an heir to receive it. Ruth needed an heir. So she offered herself to Boaz—a man of the same tribe as her late husband. After the next of kin declined his duty, Boaz purchased the right to marry or act as a redeemer for Ruth.

Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord give you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Ruth 4:11-12 (NIV)

Who’s Perez? Not Hilton, that’s for sure. Perez was a son of Judah. Judah was also a kinsman-redeemer. When his daughter-in-law remained childless after having been wed to two of his sons, Judah became the man to produce an heir. While it wasn’t the most savoury of situations, Judah was still a redeemer. Judah, an ancestor of Boaz who was a redeemer. Boaz, an ancestor of Jesus who is The Redeemer.

Boaz took on a debt he did not owe by marrying Ruth and providing an heir for her deceased husband. It seems so small in comparison to the debt Jesus paid for us. He became our go’el, taking on himself that which overwhelmed us—our sin.

I don’t think it was by accident that these men in Jesus’ lineage were also redeemers. Without them and their actions, Jesus never could have arrived on scene. David’s line never would have even existed for Jesus to be a part of it. Redemption was in Jesus’ blood. Redemption was in his genes.

Read: Ruth 1-4, Luke 11:29-54

Irrevocable

Read: Genesis 29-30, Matthew 10:1-23

A story came out in the news this week about a pastor of a large church. He, like many of us, has a past. And, like many of us, he dealt with it and left it where it belonged. Until recently, he had been enjoying the success of marriage and family and ministering to his congregation.

Before I go further, let me clarify that the situation in question happened when he was a young man working in a church. The actions were of a sexual nature and involved a 17-year-old girl. By all accounts, he was immediately remorseful and admitted his transgression to those to whom he was accountable in the church. He apologized to all involved and was removed from his position. Nothing has been brought forward to say that such actions took place on any other occasion.

Now, with the #MeToo movement bringing all sorts of people out of the woodwork, this pastor is having to relive his shame. I in no way condone his actions, nor do I belittle what happened to the woman involved. There is no place in society for any sort of sexual misconduct. But, with all of the very public accusations and shaming, what seems to be missing is the greatest component of all: grace.

When Jesus began his public ministry, the people he brought alongside him were far from what society would call blameless. He called the blue collar workers. He called the tax collectors. He called the sinners. And then he walked with them. He ate with them. He taught them. Then he empowered them and sent them off into ministry.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:8 (NIV)

Some scholars believe that Jesus’ instructions here did not only reference the physical needs of the people, but were also representative of their need to be healed and revived spiritually. The men Jesus called had all been healed and brought to life in one way or another. The greater their sin, the greater the grace they received. And who better to extend grace than the one who has already received it?

If we demand that this pastor, because of his past sin, is no longer fit for ministry, then we must throw away the entire Bible. We can no longer sing our worship songs. We must seclude ourselves for fear of being infected by the sin that runs rampant in our churches.

Paul’s sole purpose in life was to kill Christians. Matthew was a tax collector (the very worst kind of evil). David, the man after God’s own heart, was a sexual predator and a murderer. Yet all of these men, and more, made invaluable contributions to the Book that we hold so closely to our hearts.

Romans 11:29

Who are we to stand in judgement of someone who has asked for, and received, forgiveness? Who are we to say who is and is not fit for ministry? David was guilty of far worse than most of us and yet we still sing his songs in church every Sunday, thousands of years after they were written. Paul himself should have been put to death for his crimes against Christianity, yet he made some of the the greatest contributions to our faith.

If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

John 8:7b (NIV)

Without grace, we are all guilty. None of us should be fit for ministry. But if we do as Jesus told the woman described in John 8 and leave our life of sin, there is no condemnation. But for the grace of God we should all be buried under a landslide of stones.

For I am the least of all the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

1 Corinthians 15:9-10 (NIV)

God has called us all. No one, not even He, can revoke that calling. And it is only through His grace that any of us are able to walk in the purpose He has set out before us. What I give should be only from that which God has given through me. Judgement is not a gift from God. Grace is.

 

All I really want

What do you want in life? A nice car? A big house? A good-looking spouse with a good job? Do you want to be happy? Feel settled? What do you spend your time pursuing?

Then I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my place of refuge.
You are all I really want in life.”

Psalm 142:5 (NLT)

Can any of us say, like David did, that the Lord is all we really want in life? Do we look to God for direction in everything? Do we trust Him with our lives—our entire lives?

Let me hear of your unfailing love to me in the morning,
for I am trusting in you.
Show me where to walk,
for I have come to you in prayer.

Psalm 143:8 (NLT)

While I believe that our spirits long for God completely, the rest of us often struggle to catch up. In our heads we can say that God is all we want, but our attitudes and actions may not quite fall into line.

That is where the asking comes in.

David had no trouble at all bringing his complaints and concerns to God. Did he do absolutely everything the way God wanted him to? No. But he was still the man who, despite his downfalls and shortcomings, chased after the heart of God.

Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
on a firm footing.

Psalm 143:10 (NLT)

We have to keep reminding ourselves that, even if the spirit is willing and the flesh weak, that God, in His infinite loving kindness is still faithful. When we call out to Him, He will answer. If we allow Him to, He will lead us. If we open our eyes, He will show us the way.

If we endeavor to truly make God all we want in life, He will meet us where we are and fill as much space in our lives that we make available to Him.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 142-144, 1 Corinthians 10:14-33

A way out

Do you can do whatever you want to do. You can say whatever you want to say. You can feel whatever you want to feel. You can be whatever you want to be.

These are all ideas that are being thrust at as all the time. At first glance, they seem great. Yeah, I can do what I want to do! But what about what we are called to do?

Just because a feeling pops up or you want to say something or you want to be something doesn’t meant those are things that you should feel, say, or be. Our sinful, selfish natures will lead us to do things that are completely contrary to God’s will and plan for our lives. While the world would have us cater to ourselves, God would have us fight against those temptations.

But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

You mean I don’t get to do or say what I want? No, you don’t have to do or say what you want. Look at the people who live completely for themselves. Are they truly happy? Are they completely fulfilled? Or are they chasing one temptation after another looking for something they’ll never find as long as they pursue that path?

There is something to be said for restraint and resistance. Paul talks about it in 1 Corinthians and David addressed it in the Psalms.

Take control of what I say, O Lord,
and keep my lips sealed.
Don’t let me lust for evil things;
don’t let me participate in acts of wickedness.
Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do evil.

Psalm 141:3-4 (NLT)

Giving up control, even a little, is something we naturally want to fight against. We want things our own way! We all fight to gain control, but what does that truly get us?

We can pursue our own selfish whims or we can pursue God. We cannot do both. But giving up selfish desires isn’t resigning ourselves to a life of passionless boredom. By turning away from the endless pursuit of worldly pleasures, we enable ourselves to walk a path that was laid out for each of us as individuals before we were even born. We don’t have to go on a search to find ourselves. We are found in Christ. He has a plan and a purpose for us.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!
They are innumerable!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up in the morning,
you are still with me!

Psalm 139:17-18 (NLT)

We can wander aimlessly through life looking for the next bit of pleasure, never quite being fulfilled, or we can give up that search and find lasting, eternal fulfillment with the One who has already planned our days for us.

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

Psalm 139:16 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 139-141, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Aim higher

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Romans 14:17-19 (NLT)

Inclusion is the chant, but division is the outcome. We see it in the news every day. One side yelling at another side, each one believing they’re right. But if you would ask the individuals, most everyone says they want the same thing—peace and harmony. So why are the results the opposite? Why are we tearing each other down instead of building each other up?

I believe it all begins with the individual. Luke said that, whatever is in your heart determines what you say (Luke 6:45b). When one side is screaming at another, one must wonder what is really in their hearts? Is it the peace and justice they claim to want or is it hate and division?

Our aim, like Paul tells us, should be for harmony in the church and [to] try to build each other up. So how do we do that? I think David’s thoughts can start us down the right track.

Praise the Lord, I tell myself;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, I tell myself,
and never forget the good things he does for me.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT)

If what is in our hearts will determine what we say, let’s get good things in our hearts. Here in Psalm 103, David speaks to himself, reminding his spirit of the good things God has done. He’s putting good things into his heart so that good things will come out of his mouth.

Getting the good stuff to stick is hard when we’re constantly being bombarded with noise and negativity, but if David could do it, if Paul could do it, we can, too.

For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:7-8 (NLT)

Start with reminding yourself who you belong to, whom you serve. Then remind yourself of all He has done for you and for those who have gone before you. Fill your heart and your mind with goodness and peace and joy. Then your aim for harmony won’t seem to lofty.

Try a daily confession. Write your own from verses that speak to you or find one (like this) that lines up with the Word of God. Speak to yourself like David did. Tell yourself who you are and what God has done for you. You may be surprised by what you start to say. When those good things start to pour out from your spirit, the natural effect will be the building up of those around you.

Let us, as the Church, aim higher.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 103-104, Romans 14