The sons of Levi were…. 1 Chronicles 1:1 (MSG)
Reading through what seems like endless genealogical records in the beginning of Chronicles, I begin to appreciate how important lineage was to Israel in the Old Testament. The family you were born into determined all sorts of things from status, to where you lived, to what you did for a living and your responsibilities in temple worship.
I don't think I fully appreciate what it's like to have your life and social status completely determined by the family into which you happened to be born. Being born in a country and a time in which you're raised believing you can do anything and succeed at anything you choose to do if you put your heart and mind to it, it's hard to fathom being constrained by my family name.
One of the awesome things that Jesus did through his life, death and resurrection was to shatter this legalistic system in which your family was of utmost importance. Ephesians 1:5 says "In love [God]predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." Through Jesus, being born into the right family with the right genes and the right name becomes a moot point. When we place our faith in Jesus, we're adopted into the family that really matters.
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And even though Judah became the strongest of his brothers and King David eventually came from that family, the firstborn rights stayed with Joseph. 1 Chronicles 5:2 (MSG)
To this point in the book, the author of Chronicles has focused his genealogical listings on the tribe of Judah and particularly the house of David. We see it yet again in the verse above as the writer appears to explain to his readers why first born rights among the tribes of Israel were not with the first born Reuben, nor with his favorite team: Judah. He does, however, bring up an interesting connection.
Joseph and David were both the youngest among their brothers and were derided as such. God raised both of them to prominence over their brothers and gave them both positions of power, authority, and blessing. Both David and Joseph are constant reminders that God is a God of the underdog. God raises the lowest, most humble. When we are at our weakest, God tends to performs His greatest works in our lives.
Jabez was a better man than his brothers, a man of honor. His mother had named him Jabez (Oh, the pain!), saying, "A painful birth! I bore him in great pain!" Jabez prayed to the God of Israel: "Bless me, O bless me! Give me land, large tracts of land. And provide your personal protection—don't let evil hurt me." God gave him what he asked. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (MSG)
As a father, I always desire to bless my children. I want to bless them. At the same time, I never want my blessing to be an assumption of entitlement. I don't like my blessing to be taken for granted. When a child asks rather than assumes, it is an honoring act. There is a recognition of authority and humility in the request.
Perhaps God blessed Jabez because he was the one who honored God enough to ask, and didn't assume God's blessing was a done deal.
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Thanks to all of those who've supported Madison with your contributions and your prayers. She is making her fourth mission trip with Global Expeditions, and is currently in India. Madison's team has been working with churches and orphanages and reports from their team leaders are very promising. The team has been having a great ministry there. This past week one of the teams was allowed to visit a neighborhood that was within the lowest caste (called "untouchables"). It was a rare opportunity to love the poor in that area.
Those of you on Facebook can follow the latest on the team's Facebook page:
Please continue to pray for her and the team. She returns home July 10th.
"These are the sons that David had while he lived at Hebron…." 1 Chronicles 3:1 (MSG)
I'm currently reading a trilogy of novels. The first book felt a bit scattered and I struggled with parts of it. Only now, as I get into the middle of the second book, are the pieces coming together. Many of the things that confused me in the beginning are making sense, and I'm gaining an appreciation for the larger story told by the author.
In a similar way, the Old Testament can feel incredibly boring and confusing until you start connecting the dots and see how the whole of the story fits together.
When reading the Old Testament books of history, it's important to remember that David is a key figure. Not only is he key in understanding the Old Testament, but he is a key figure in the story of Jesus and beyond. God promised David that his throne would be established forever. When the Kingdom of Israel split after Solomon, the southern kindgom (referred to thereafter as the Kingdom of Judah) remained loyal to the line of David. All of their kings were descendents of David. The northern kingdom (continuing to be called the Kingdom of Israel) became a free-for-all in which the throne went to the most powerful (or treacherous) person who could ascend to the throne.
Because of God's promise to David, the prophets knew that the Messiah would be born of David's line. The family trees of Jesus listed in Matthew and Luke (one is the line through his mother and the other is through his earthly father Joseph) were critical in establishing that Jesus was descended of David through both.
The more you understand of the larger story, the more interesting the individual stories and chapters become.
Er, Judah's firstborn, was so bad before God that God killed him. 1 Chronicles 2:3b (MSG)
Many years ago I was preparing a message about the sinfulness of man. As an illustration, I began thinking through my own family. I not only thought about my immediate family, but also thought through the previous generations I knew about and cousins and second cousins and third cousins. I then listed all of the "sins" and sinful consequences I knew about. It was a long list. Drug use, imprisonment, depression, suicide, divorce, etc., etc., and etc.
The point was that we can all find black sheep in our families. There isn't one of us who isn't touched and affected by sin. It is what it is. The reality is that Er is a part of Jesus family tree. Jesus was born in the lineage of David and Judah. Even Jesus was related to a lot of Black Sheep.
We don't get to choose our family tree, but we can all choose to bloom where we are planted.
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Adam, Seth, Enosh…. 1 Chronicles 1:1 (MSG)
Reading through the trunk of our family tree today, I could not help thinking about Father's Day this past week. We are all a product, genetically, of our forefathers. We are all influenced, systemically, by our famillies. For me, a huge part of understanding my own journey has been spent answering the questions:
"Who am I?"
"Who is Jesus?"
"Who am I in Jesus?"
Certainly part of the answers have come from learning about my family. In the past I find clues to who I am in the present. And yet, the future is largely determined by me. I choose the next step I take.
What shall I do today?
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You'll see all this and burst with joy
—you'll feel ten feet tall—
As it becomes apparent that God is on your side
and against his enemies. Isaiah 66:14 (MSG)
A couple of years ago Wendy and I took Taylor and Clayton to an Iowa Cubs game. The game looked to be a real downer as the I-Cubs were losing by three runs going into the bottom of the ninth. Then, the four of us witnessed the quintessential baseball moment. It was Casey at the Bat come to life. The Cubs loaded the bases, and with two outs and the count full at 3 and 2, there was just one pitch to determine the outcome of the game. Everyone was on their feet. The crowd was going crazy. It happened. Our hometown boy knocked it out of the park for a Grand Slam to win the game. We walked out of the park that night feeling ten feet tall. I will never forget that game.
There is nothing quite like the moment of victory for an athlete or a fan. I think we all have experienced the thrill of victory at one time or another. The last second shot goes in. Coming from behind against impossible odds to win the match. A Hail Mary pass is caught in the end-zone.
God promised salvation through Jesus, and delivered in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He has also promised an ultimate victory for any who would believe. We will all know a bottom-of-the-ninth Grand Slam to rival no other. We will stand and feel ten feet tall as we witness God victorious.
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"I've made myself available to those who haven't bothered to ask. I'm here, ready to be found by those who haven't bothered to look. Isaiah 65:1 (MSG)
If there's one key thing I've learned about relationships it is this: you can't have a genuine relationship without two parties. Relationships require two who are willing to interact with one another. If I reach out to someone on Facebook and add them as a friend, we can only truly interact and share if that person confirms me.
When Jesus came to sacrifice Himself for the sins of all He, in effect, reached out to click "add as friend" for each of us. We don't truly enter relationship until we, in our hearts, confirm Jesus as our friend and reach out to enter relationship with Him.
"Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you." Revelation 3:20 (MSG)
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Still, God, you are our Father.
We're the clay and you're our potter:
All of us are what you made us. Isaiah 64:8 (MSG)
Many years ago, I signed my daughter and I up for a pottery class at the Des Moines Art Center. Once a week we would drive downtown to their pottery shop and learn to make things out of clay. It was a blast gettting our hands dirty, experimenting, and seeing all of the cool stuff that more experienced and talented artists had made. You can make almost anything with clay. Taylor made a taco and some potato ole's (non-edible, of course, but they looked really cool).
God is so infinitely creative. He makes such an interesting mix of amazing, beautiful people. It's easy to forget that the guy driving slow in the left lane is one of God's unique creations. That wenchy woman in the check out line is molded in God's image too. God didn't create the man to be a poor driver or mold that woman to have a wenchy attitude. Nevertheless, they are God's creation just like me. The least I can do is treat God's handiwork with a little deference.
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