Protect the promise

If you’ve made a commitment to someone, how far will you go to see that it happens? If someone has made a commitment to you, how far will you go to see that it happens? And what about what God has promised to you? How far will you go to hold on to the promises that you have from the Lord? Only until it gets a little uncomfortable? Only until it’s inconvenient and doesn’t really fit into your plans?

What if we could see the end at the beginning? Would it change our response to God’s promises? It certainly made a difference in Judah. God had promised that David’s line would never end. David would have an heir on the throne forever. But as we read in 2 Chronicles, that line was in serious jeopardy. Upon the death of King Ahaziah, his mother took it upon herself to destroy every possible heir. But one got away. Just a child, but an heir nonetheless.

Jehoiada said to them, “The king’s son shall reign, as the Lord promised concerning the descendants of David. Now this is what you are to do: A third of you priests and Levites who are going on duty on the Sabbath are to keep watch at the doors, a third of you at the royal palace and a third at the Foundation Gate, and all the other men are to be in the courtyards of the temple of the Lord. No on is to enter the temple of the Lord except the priests and Levites on duty; they may enter because they are consecrated, but all the other men are to guard what the Lord has assigned to them. The Levites are to station themselves around the king, each man with weapons in his hand. Anyone who enters the temple must be put to death. Stay close to the king wherever he goes.

2 Chronicles 23:3b-7 (NIV)

That is an awful lot of fuss for a kid just barely out of kindergarten. Yet Jehoiada knew that this boy was heir to far more than just the nation of Judah. He was the heir of a promise that would extend throughout eternity and they would protect that promise with their lives.

We have a book full of promises from God. How far will you go to see those promises come to pass?

The thing is, just because a promise has been made, doesn’t mean that we aren’t required to do anything. It doesn’t mean that we just get to sit around and let it happen around us. Had Jehoiada decided to leave matters be—it’ll all work out in the end, won’t it?—Joash would have been killed along with the rest of his siblings. The last of David’s line gone. And then what? It’s not as though God couldn’t have come up with another plan for salvation. But that’s not what God does. He’s not a God of plan B. He doesn’t even have a plan B. It’s plan A. Period.

So how do we know that God will keep His promises?

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NIV)

If God has made a promise to us, we can be assured that He will keep it. But we also have a responsibility to protect that promise. We must arm ourselves as Jehoiada armed the priests and Levites to protect Joash. God has given us His Spirit so that we can stand firm in the face of our enemy and declare the Amen—let it be so—with confidence that if God has promised it, He will perform it.

Do you have a promise from God? Protect it. With your life.

Read: 2 Chronicles 23-25, John 16:16-33

The way we worship

As a worship leader, I think I’m often drawn to scriptures about worship. I like to see how others express their love for God. David, of course, is the best example we have in the Bible. Some know him as the boy who defeated a giant. Others as a king. Some yet a shepherd. I look to him as a singer/songwriter.

As the leader of all of Israel, David could have very easily appointed his worship team and walked away to let them do their thing. I’ve seen many pastors do it (my pastor gives me a lot of leeway in worship, but we still sit down and discuss songs, leadership, and direction on a regular basis). Even worse, I’ve seen many ministers sit in a green room or office during the worship service only to step on stage when it was their time to shine and scurry back to that room once they had delivered their message.

But David took an active role in how Israel worshipped.

That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this psalm of thanks to the Lord;

1 Chronicles 16:7 (NIV)

Not only did David actively participate in leading worship (not just worshipping from the back of the room), but once the Ark of the Covenant was back with the people, he gave the worship leader the title song for the new album.

Sometimes, I think we can get so caught up with labels and descriptions that we box ourselves in to one small area. We never give ourselves the opportunity to explore other areas—especially in the church. Jesus gave us many examples of ministry, but he never said that one thing was for a certain person while another thing was for another type of person. He did it all. And aren’t we supposed to emulate him in all things?

David redefined what it was to be a leader, mostly because he was a worshipper long before he was ever anointed as king. Showing his love for the Lord was priority number one. That was followed up by showing his family how to love the Lord.

Then all the people left, each for his own home, and David returned home to bless his family.

1 Chronicles 16:43 (NIV)

We were created for worship. Everyone worships someone or something. We don’t have to be taught to do that. But we do have to be taught to worship the right someone. How will anyone ever learn to worship God if they never see the people closest to them worship themselves? As leaders, as believers, as children of God, we are the ones who will show everyone else who and how to worship. We must be worshippers of God before we can be anything else for God.

Read: 1 Chronicles 14-16, John 9:24-41

Suck it up, Buttercup

Feelings are good. They can let us know when things are okay or bad or scary or wonderful. Some would have us believe that we should be ruled entirely by our feelings. We should always feel safe. We should never feel threatened. We always have a right to feel whatever we want to feel and express those feelings however we choose. And how is that working out for us?

Even King David, upon learning of the death of his son Absalom, had a moment when he let his feelings overtake him. He retreated to his safe space. And you know what that earned him? A big, fat lecture from the leader of his military.

The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son, Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Then Joab when into the house of the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from you youth till now.”

2 Samuel 19:4-7 (NIV)

Ouch! Who would be brave enough to tell a king to get off his butt, wipe the tears off his face, and congratulate the army that killed his son? From David’s perspective of intense grief, one may say that Joab was overly harsh with his king. What right did he have to say what he did in the manner he said it? Was David not allowed to mourn for his son?

Had David chosen to put his feelings first and wallow in his grief, it would have cost him the kingdom that had just been saved. Instead of closing the door on Joab, David heeded his commander’s advice.

So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him.

2 Samuel 19:8 (NIV)

We are all entitled to our feelings, but our feelings are not entitled to rule us unless we allow them to. God gave us feelings. He gave us the ability to rejoice and to grieve. He made us to be glad as well as sad. But He also gave us dominion. To be ruled by our feelings is to look solely on our inward selves. To give in to every feeling with the unction to express every little emotion that comes upon us is to become utterly selfish.

Was David selfish in wanting to grieve for his son? No. But in his grief, he stole the joy of victory from his men. They thought they had done well in restoring the kingdom to its rightful ruler. But instead of a pat on the back, all they saw was David’s back as he turned to mourn the death of his enemy.

While we should welcome feelings and emotions, we cannot be entirely ruled by them. Sometimes how we feel must take a back seat to what we must do. Sometimes we have to suck it up and do what is best for the greater good rather than our own good.

Take a page out of David’s book, literally. He learned to channel his feelings and emotions, pouring them out to God in the pages we now know as the Psalms. There, the shepherd boy who became a king, let it all out. He figured out how to handle his emotions while balancing them with the responsibilities of ruling God’s chosen people. He learned humility above all.

My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 131 (NIV)

Read: 2 Samuel 19-20, Luke 21:20-38 

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

The heart of the matter

Who would you choose as your leader? On the playground as children, we’d pick the big, strong, athletic kids. As teens, perhaps the best-looking guy or girl. As adults, the one that looks like they have it all together.

Saul was that man. He was big and strong. He stood a head taller than everyone else. He was good-looking. He had it all together. He was God’s first choice. But he wasn’t God’s lasting choice.

Three times in 1 Samuel 15, Saul, while speaking to Samuel, refers to God as the Lord your God. Never once did he say, the Lord my God. Even though Saul had been chosen by God, anointed as king over Israel, and had the Spirit of the Lord upon him, Saul had not sought the Lord for himself.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance of his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

Because Saul refused to seek after Him, the Lord chose to remove His hand and His Spirit from him.

But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.

1 Samuel 13:14 (NIV)

Israel asked for a king and God gave them what they wanted. But when the king God gave them led them away from Him, it was time to replace that king.

God is not at all concerned with what position we may or may not have. He gives position and He can take it away.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Romans 13:1 (NIV)

Power and position here on earth are of no consequence to God. Just because Saul had been made king didn’t mean that he would remain king. By not following God’s instructions and for not seeking the Lord for himself, Saul disqualified himself from ruling over Israel. Instead, God led Samuel to seek out the one man who would chase after Him no matter what.

When we choose to honour God not matter what, He will elevated us to a position of His choosing. We won’t all be kings or queens, nor will we necessarily take up positions of great power or authority. But for those who search for the heart of God, He will make a place.

Read: 1 Samuel 15-16, Luke 14:25-35

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

Jesus at the Center

Read: Numbers 1-2, Mark 3:1-21

As much at it irks me to spell centre the American way (in a title, no less), I fear that today I must since it is a title. It’s the title of a great song that begins like this:

Jesus at the center of it all
Jesus at the center of it all
From beginning to the end
It will always be it’s always been You Jesus Jesus

As we start our journey in to the book of Numbers, we read about how God organised His people. First he started the draft. Every able-bodied man aged twenty and over was conscripted into military duty. Then He laid out the map for the camp. Suddenly Israel was no longer a group of former slaves, but they were an army.

In those days, a military camp would have looked similar to a pond after a stone had been dropped in it. The very centre, where the stone fell, would have been the person of highest rank—usually a king. In every subsequent ring would be those of lesser and lesser priority. Should an enemy come to attack the camp, they would have to plow through the entire army before finally getting to the king.

In Israel, things were a little different. There was a tent at the centre of camp. And it did house a king, but not in the expected sense. Central in the Israelite camp was the Tent of Meeting. The Tabernacle. The Holy of Holies. God’s dwelling place. He placed Himself at the very centre of all Israel and then, very deliberately, set His people around Him.

Numbers 2-1-2.jpg

If this is how God insisted Israel organise themselves, it begs the question, where have we placed God in our own lives? Is He at the very centre? Does everything else revolve around Him? Or is He more on the outskirts, more susceptible to being forgotten about or left out of everything altogether?

The song we started with goes on:

And nothing else matters
Nothing in this world will do
Jesus You’re the center
Ev’rything revolves around You Jesus You

We know that God doesn’t change. He wanted to be the centre of everything with Israel and He wants to be at the centre of everything with us. But do we give Him room to be just that? Is He the stone that caused the ripple or is He just something the ripple washes over?

Jesus at the Center © 2011 Integrity Worship Music, Adam Ranney | Israel Houghton | Micah Massey