Tag Archives: Bible

Sacred Things

Sacred Things (CaD 2 Ki 18) Wayfarer

[King Hezekiah] broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
2 Kings 18:4 (NIV)

Wendy and I had the joy of visiting a local high school yesterday to provide feedback on two student theatre pieces on their way to All-State contests this weekend. It was so much fun for us.

Before leaving, we got into a conversation with one of the teachers regarding the ways individuals get offended and bent out of shape by different things. It’s not unusual. In the years that I was President of our local community theatre, I got to field many calls and personal visits from people who were offended by this or that.

One of the things that I observed amidst the anger and the criticism I listened to is that people sometimes hold the most unusual things personally sacred – things I would never expect.

I’ve experienced the same with church. I remember once getting into hot water because the ratty, old, falling-apart King James pew bibles were replaced with new pew bibles in a more modern translation. The ratty, old, falling-apart bibles had become sacred to someone.

In today’s chapter, we begin the story of ancient King Hezekiah of Judah. As the author lists all of the things Hezekiah did to abolish idolatry in the kingdom, he mentions that people had been burning incense to a most unusual object.

Around 750 years before Hezekiah, Moses was leading the Hebrew tribes out of slavery in Egypt. Snakes were biting and killing the wandering tribes. God told Moses to make a snake on a pole out of bronze and anyone bitten by a snake could look at it and they would live. Fast forward to the days of Hezekiah (a time when snake worship was common), and individuals had begun worshipping the bronze pole rather than the God who miraculously used it for a specific purpose at a specific point in time to address a specific situation.

In the quiet this morning, I am simply reminded of the human tendency to make certain things sacred and worship them. I’ve observed people making sacred and worshipping homes, buildings (especially churches), children (deceased or living), ancestors, traditions (lots of these), memories, treasures, celebrities, hobbies, clothes, cars, et cetera.

It is especially easy for me to do exactly as the people of Hezekiah’s day had done. I can hold certain trappings of religion more sacred than the living God to which those trappings are supposed to point me.

So, what do I hold sacred? Are there things, other than God, that I actually worship without thinking about it in those terms?

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Note: The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder AI

Humiliating Defeat

Humiliating Defeat (CaD 2 Ki 14) Wayfarer

Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?”
2 Kings 14:9-10 (NIV)

There are certain things that one simply experiences and knows from growing up and living in Iowa. For example, there’s the sport of wrestling. For whatever reason, the sport of wrestling is a thing in our state. Our major universities have long histories of success in the sport, and they’ve produced some of the most dominant wrestlers in history.

When I was growing up, wrestling was part of the required P.E. curriculum in the Middle School years. When you’re the youngest of four children, that means that older siblings came home and taught what they’d learned. I had never really wrestled in any official capacity, but I knew a few things from what my siblings taught me. I remember being paired up with partners in P.E. class and whoever my partner was, I had a pretty easy time of it.

Then we were allowed to challenge others in the class while the entire class looked on. I chose to challenge one of my classmates who was about my size. I figured I would at least be able to hold my own. What I didn’t know is that the guy I chose was already an accomplished wrestler and would go on to be a formidable wrestler in high school. It took less than five seconds for him to pin me. It was total humiliation.

It’s funny the things that I remember, and that still come to mind, over forty years later. There have been moments along my life journey when I experienced humiliating defeats and crashes of different kinds. Moments of shame are hard for me to forget. They have definitely served a purpose, however.

In today’s chapter, King Amaziah of Judah finds himself flying high after defeating the army of Edom. Feeling good about his victory, he challenges the Kingdom of Israel to a battle. Jehoash, King of Israel, tells Amaziah to reconsider and gives him the opportunity to withdraw the challenge, but Amaziah will have none of it. It does not go well for him. It ended up a humiliating defeat and Amaziah’s own people eventually turned on him and killed him.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the seasons of life. In the ebb-and-flow of the journey, I have experienced seasons of victory in which I felt on top of the world. It’s easy for me to think I’m going to stay there or fly even higher. Eventually, life always hands me a loss.

I also wrote yesterday that I’ve learned to embrace every season for what it is. Seasons of loss, defeat, shame, or humiliation are good soil for growing faith, humility, perseverance, and proven character. The “mountain-top” soil isn’t suited to grow those things.

In the quiet this morning, I’m praying a word of gratitude for the defeats, losses, and humiliating moments along my life journey. They’ve taught me a lot, including when to be content with life’s victories and appreciate how transient they can be. I’m also saying a prayer for my classmate who humiliated me on the wrestling mat (Yes, Wendy, I still remember his name!). I hope he’s in a good place on his own life journey.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Thoughts on the Prophetic

Thoughts on the Prophetic (CaD 2 Ki 8) Wayfarer

Hazael said [to Elisha], “How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?”

“The Lord has shown me that you will become king of Aram,” answered Elisha.

2 Kings 8:13 (NIV)

In today’s chapter, there is a fascinating episode in which the servant of the king of Aram sends a man named Hazael to the prophet Elisha to ask if he will recover from his illness. Elisha informs Hazael that the king will recover but he will die. Then Elisha stares at Hazael for an uncomfortable and awkward period of time and begins to weep. Elisha then tells Hazael that he will become king of Aram and will do great harm to the kingdom of Israel.

Hazael returns to the King of Aram, murders him, and usurps the throne. I’m left wondering if Hazael’s coup was already in process when he went to see Elisha, and Elisha’s prophecy confirmed for Hazael that it was time to pull the trigger.

An interesting historical side note: An ancient Assyrian inscription records the reign of Hazael “Son of Nobody” in Aram.

What struck me as I read this story was how similar it is to one of my favorite Shakespearean plays. The tragedy of Macbeth basically follows the same plot line. It is prophesied that Macbeth, a relative nobody among the nobility of Scotland, will be king. It so happened that the King of Scotland decides to stay at Macbeth’s place for the night and his wife convinces him that they should murder the king and make the prophecy come true. I couldn’t help but wonder if Shakespeare was inspired by the story of Hazael.

By the way, things don’t work out so well for Macbeth and his wife. Hazael, on the other hand, did quite well for himself. He created a fairly impressive little regional empire in Damascus and reigned for over 40 years.

Prophecy is a fascinating element of life. As I contemplated it in the quiet this morning it struck me, from horoscopes to Nostradamus, how pervasive it is, even among otherwise nominally spiritual people.

As a disciple of Jesus, prophecy is a part of the fabric of life, and the Great Story is chock full of it. Seventeen books of the Bible are the words of the ancient prophets and the book of Revelations records the prophetic visions of John. One of the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows on individual believers is the gift of prophecy.

During my forty-plus years of being a follower of Jesus, I’ve experienced many instances of people who have told me things that have been prophesied to them or for them. In other instances, both Wendy and I have had people speak prophetic words to us. And, on a handful of occasions, I’ve been directly given specific prophetic words from God’s Spirit.

My experience with the prophetic, however, includes individuals who regularly share with me prophetic messages they’ve been given that I’ve noticed never pan out. I’ve also observed instances of individuals who, like Lady Macbeth, go to great lengths to make a prophetic message happen, usually to semi-tragic ends. False prophecy has always been a part of the prophetic experience.

I’ve also had some legitimately amazing, truly prophetic experiences.

I’ve learned along my life journey to take what I call the .38 Special approach to prophecy: “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” I’ve come to believe in holding the tension between being someone who frantically chases after the prophetic and those who dismiss it entirely. If a prophetic word is truly prophetic, it will come to pass. When given a prophetic word I listen. I make note of it. Then I place it on the back burner of my heart and mind, and I continue to press on as normal.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Power and Chaos

Zimri came in, struck [Elah] down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah. Then he succeeded [Elah] as king.
1 Kings 16:10 (NIV)

I’ve observed over my life journey that the kingdoms of this world are really all about power: the power to control others, the power to acquire for self, and the power to maintain power.

Tyrants wield power like blunt force trauma. They lie, deceive, kill and destroy in order to rise to the top of their kingdom. Then they eliminate any threat, use force to control the masses, and entrench themselves at the top of their kingdom.

Politicians are more subtle. They manipulate the rules to their advantage in order to ensure their coffers are always full, their personal assets favorably rise, campaign and election rules are rigged in their favor, and their opponents are smeared as extremists. The endgame is the same, however: control others, acquire for self, and maintain power and privilege.

Media use their power of influence to control what their viewers see and hear, boost their fame and ratings, help those who align with their political bent, and demonize those who don’t.

Religious institutions use the power of religious authority to create spiritual hierarchies of authority. Those at the top control mass behavior with that authority coupled with guilt, shame, and the threat of ostracization, ex-communication, public shaming, or other punishments.

I could go on to talk about the abuse of power that exists in businesses, families, sports, community groups, charitable organizations, and every human system.

Today’s chapter follows the quick succession of kings in the northern Kingdom of Israel. While the southern Kingdom of Judah was committed to being ruled by the dynastic line of David, the northern Kingdom of Israel was a free-for-all. The game of thrones in the north was a virtual “King of the Mountain.” The throne was there for the taking of anyone who could seize and wield power.

Bashaa reigns 24 years and dies.

Elah succeeds his father, Basshaa, and reigns for two years.

Zimri, a military officer, assassinates Elah, slaughters the entire family of Bashaa, and declares himself king. He reigns seven days.

Omri, a military general, is hailed as king by the army under his command as soon as they hear of Zimri’s coup. Realizing he was doomed, Zimri commits suicide by lighting the palace on fire and dying in the flames.

Tibni, a prominent public figure, challenges Omri for the throne, dividing the nation into two competing factions. Omri (with the military behind him) proves stronger and ascends the throne for 12 years.

Ahab, son of Omri, succeeds his father on the throne.

Corruption, assassination, military coup, suicide, destruction, and division. It’s not a picture of peace and harmony.

In the quiet this morning, I’m reminded how differently Jesus prescribed His game plan for changing the world. His people wanted a Messiah who was a divine version of the top-down power under which they’d suffered for centuries. They wanted a divine Messiah who would wipe out their enemies while raising them to positions of power and prominence. But from the very beginning, Jesus was the living embodiment of God’s word through the prophet Isaiah: “My ways are not your ways.”

In a real sense, that is what Christmas is about.

The way of Jesus was that of an omnipotent God humbly lowering Himself and taking on the role of servant, becoming human and submitting Himself to all of the constraints, weaknesses, conflicts, labor, and pain that come with being human. Jesus’ taught his followers this same example. Humble yourself, consider others ahead of yourself, love your enemies, bless those who persecute you, be content with what you have been given, lead by serving, control your thoughts, words, and behavior with others, and live a life marked by love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness.

Jesus’ paradigm wasn’t to change the world with top-down power, coercion, threat, force, and control. Jesus’ paradigm was to change the world was that of one person changing the life of another individual with love, motivating that individual to pay it forward toward others who will, in turn, have changed hearts motivating them to pay it forward in loving yet others who will pay it forward in loving still others, until an organic, underground movement of love spreads across humanity.

By the way, it really worked for a few hundred years. At that point, the Prince of this World made a brilliant move in the chess match between him and God. The Prince of this World gave the Jesus Movement worldly power. They became a Kingdom of this World. Almost overnight the organic, persecuted followers of Jesus found themselves with the power, authority, and earthly riches of the Holy Roman Empire. Chaos followed just as it always follows the kingdoms of this world under the dominion of the Prince of this World.

But that wasn’t Jesus’ paradigm. There was no earthly power, or control, or wealth in a stable outside of Bethlehem.

I adore that.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Today’s featured image was generated with Wonder A.I.

God and Tragedy

God and Tragedy (CaD 1 Ki 14) Wayfarer

In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem.
1 Kings 14:25 (NIV)

I have observed that every life journey is marked by a certain amount of both difficulty and tragedy. The amount is relative. The difficulties and tragedies can be the consequences of foolish choices and behaviors. In some cases, they may be directly related to system patterns inherited from previous generations. In other cases, a difficulty or tragedy simply originates in what insurance companies still call the random “act of God.”

Another observation I’ve made along my life journey is the way in which people respond to difficulties and tragedies in life. It is not uncommon for people to get mad at God, blame God, conclude that God does not exist, or conclude that if God does exist they want nothing to do with a God who would allow such things to happen. Yet others find that the difficulties and tragedies lead to greater faith and dependence on God in whom they find comfort, peace, and presence as they work through the natural stages of grief that accompany hard times.

In today’s chapter, the author of Kings gives a brief summation of King Rehoboam’s reign. He first states the Rehoboam led the Kingdom of Judah astray in the pagan worship of local deities and the detestable things they practiced in their religions. He then notes the most important event of Rehoboam’s reign after the division of Israel into two Kingdoms. The Egyptian King Shishak laid siege to Jerusalem and plundered the vast wealth of Solomon’s treasury in both the palace and the Temple. The event is corroborated in an inscription listing the successful campaigns of Shishak in a temple in Thebes. The plundering of Jerusalem was a terrible and tragic blow to the nation of Judah which was already struggling from the split with the northern tribes and the loss of lucrative trade routes. Politically, it was a terrible blow to Rehoboam’s power, wealth, and approval ratings.

What the author of Kings does not mention, is an important tidbit that the author of Chronicles made sure to mention. For the first three years of his reign, Rehoboam followed the ways of the God of Israel and was faithful to the ways of his grandfather David. It was during and after the political and military difficulties with Egypt and the plundering of Jerusalem that Rehoboam abandons his faith in God and leads his people in embracing pagan deities.

In the quiet this morning, I have to wonder whether Rehoboam was angry with God for allowing such a blow to his kingdom and his reign. When tragedy struck, did he simply choose to walk away from God because he blamed God for the tragedy? If so, he was certainly ignoring the rather major role he played in putting himself and his tribe in a weakened position that led to easy defeat. Having lived his entire life in luxury, privilege, and power, it would not surprise me that Rehoboam would have difficulty in humbly accepting his own part in the difficulties he experienced.

And of course, that leads me to consider my own reactions and responses to life’s difficulties and tragedies. My spiritual journey has taught me what I mentioned earlier, that every person will experience difficulties and tragedies in life. Nowhere in the Great Story does God promise a person a life free of it. In fact, God promises I’ll have difficulties and tragedies in this fallen world, and it is through them I develop the character qualities He desires and I progress toward spiritual maturity.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Directives

Directives (CaD 1 Ki 13) Wayfarer

The old prophet answered, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (But he was lying to him.)
1 Kings 13:18 (NIV)

I have never been a rabid fan of the Star Trek series, though I was enamored with it as a child and I have thoroughly enjoyed some of the movies. I also have friends who are rabid fans, from whom I’ve learned a lot more about the Star Trek world than I would have were it not for their tutelage.

One of the more interesting concepts to come out of the Star Trek universe is the “Prime Directive.” It states that Starfleet crews must not interfere with the natural development of other civilizations. In the 2013 movie Star Trek Into Darkness, Captain Kirk violates the Prime Directive in order to save Spock from dying inside a volcano.

When my spiritual journey as a disciple of Jesus began over forty years ago, I was given a very simple directive by God’s Spirit. In many ways, I consider it my Prime Directive, though I’ve received other directives along the way. The Prime Directive has been confirmed over and over again along the way and this post you’re reading is part of the fruit of that directive.

Over the years, I could have simply chosen to ignore the thing God directed me to do. Along the way, God expanded my understanding of what the directive meant and how I was to carry it out. I’ve had seasons of life in which I wondered if my own human failures nullified the directive (they didn’t). I’ve had opportunities that might have altered that directive in certain ways, but I chose to walk away from them.

Today’s chapter contains a strange story of an ancient prophet from Judah (now the southern Kingdom of Israel staying faithful to the family line of King David) sent to the town of Bethel where King Jereboam of the northern Kingdom of Israel has set up an altar to pagan gods in an attempt to keep pilgrims from the northern tribes from traveling to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem to make sacrifices. The prophet declares that a man named Josiah from the line of David will destroy the altars Jereboam was building to false gods (the prophecy was fulfilled hundreds of years later). God’s directive to the prophet was to make his prophetic proclamation, return home by a different road than the one on which he arrived, and not eat or drink with anyone.

Along comes an old, well-intentioned prophet living nearby who seeks out the prophet and invites him to his home for refreshment. He’s told that this would violate the directive God had given him. In near eastern cultures of that day (and to this day), hospitality is a major cultural directive, and to refuse one’s hospitality was a jarring violation of it. So now we have the prophet of Judah with a directive from God violating the cultural directive that was an insult to the prophet from Bethel. The prophet from Bethel lies and plays the “God told me to tell you” card. The prophet of Judah allows this to convince him to violate the directive God gave him. The results weren’t good.

As a disciple of Jesus seeking continually to be obedient to God’s desires and purposes for me, God’s Spirit has given me various directives along the journey. I just know it in my Spirit when it happens. I knew Wendy and I were meant to be together. I knew we were supposed to build the house at the lake. I knew where we were supposed to move. God has a way of confirming His directives in amazing ways. In each case, there were plenty of reasonable arguments for not following the directive. In some cases, the reasons even seemed wiser on the surface of things. But time-and-time-again God reminded me through the prophet Isaiah that “My ways are not your ways.”

I’ve learned over time to trust the directive when it comes, and not to allow others to convince me otherwise, like the prophet from Judah in today’s chapter. While it hasn’t always been easy to follow a directive, and sometimes I want to bail during the difficult times to which it leads, I’ve yet to be disappointed in the end.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Legendary

Legendary (CaD 1 Ki 9) Wayfarer

This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’
1 Kings 9:8 (NIV)

I have recently been listening to a podcast called This is History with Dan Jones. For any fellow history geeks reading this, I highly recommend it. The first season tells the story of the “Plantagenet” kings of England, including the crusading Richard the Lionheart and his brother, Prince John, who are typically familiar to most people because of their presence in our regular, contemporary retellings of the legend of Robin Hood. The truth is that the Robin Hood legend was not originally set in the same period of time as Richard and John. Modern writers and producers have connected the two to give the story a little more pizazz.

How fascinating that most people today have better recall of the fictional Robin Hood legend than anything about the very real histories of Richard, John, and their Plantagenet family whose real stories are every bit as entertaining as that of the legendary outlaw.

In today’s chapter, Solomon receives a second appearance from God in which God acknowledges the now completed and consecrated Temple in Jerusalem and then warns Solomon and his descendants that if they are unfaithful and worship other gods the Temple will be reduced to rubble and publicly ridiculed. The rest of the chapter goes on to list other accomplishments of Solomon’s impressive 40-year reign.

As I was pondering these things in the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but mull over the reality that there is scant evidence that King Solomon ever existed. In fact, I had teachers in school who proudly boasted that the entire story of King Solomon was as legendary a fabrication as Robin Hood. It is true that compared to other historical figures such as Richard the Lionheart and Prince John, we have little actual physical evidence to corroborate the story. Of course, Solomon lived a couple thousand years before the Plantagenet kings.

Having said that, modern archaeology has unearthed actual evidence of the building of fortifications at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer that date to the time of Solomon and corroborate the text in today’s chapter. In addition, horse stables have been unearthed as described in the text (note: today’s featured photo is of unearthed horse stables at Megiddo). Recently unearthed clay seals have also provided historical evidence to prove the historicity of both David and Solomon.

What I find fascinating, however, is the spiritual lesson that lies at the heart of this modern doubt and dismissal of the great and successful Solomon. Solomon had a successful forty-year reign. He fortified the territory his father conquered. He pulled off extensive building campaigns. He established trade routes on both land and sea and established treaties and alliances with neighboring kingdoms and empires. He was, according to the text, the most successful king by earthly standards in the history of Israel.

And he’s popularly dismissed in modern times as nothing but an exaggerated religious legend.

God warned Solomon and his descendants that their lack of faithfulness would result in the destruction of the Temple. What was also destroyed was Solomon’s legacy. Everything Solomon worked for, everything he built, everything he accomplished, and all of his worldly success ended up on the scrap heap of history that is still publicly ridiculed as rubbish to this day. His legendary success is dismissed as nothing but a legend.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but think about Jesus telling His followers to be mindful of what I treasure on this earthly journey. It’s basically a riff on the message Solomon received. If I invest my time, energy, and resources in building God’s kingdom, the “treasure” is an eternal legacy. All of the earthly treasures I acquire in chasing worldly success will, on the other hand, end up completely forgotten on the scrap heap of history right next to Solomon’s.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“However…”

"However…" (CaD 1 Ki 7) Wayfarer

It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.
1 Kings 6:38-7:1 (NIV)

By its very nature, this chapter-a-day journey focuses on one chapter each weekday. It’s typically a quick read and allows for efficiently focusing on a limited amount of content. Those chapter numbers and verse numbers were not originally part of the text. Manuscripts as early as the fourth century reveal forms of chapter designations. The chapters we have today date back to the 12th century, introduced by a man named Stephen Langton. Verses came along in 1551, added by a translator named Robert Estienne.

The upside of chapters and verses is that they make referencing and cross-referencing simple. They also help break the text up into easily digestible chunks for purposes of planned reading like this chapter-a-day journey. The downside to chapters and verses, of course, is that it’s easy to think about each chapter in a vacuum, and sometimes the lesson is the context of the larger story being told or the larger lesson being conveyed. When the teaching team among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers was preparing a series of messages on 1 Corinthians, I made a copy of Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth on plain paper without any chapter, verse, or headings. I printed it in a handwritten font. Many of them spoke of it being a transformational experience to read the letter as it was originally written, as a personal letter. I have found it important for me to occasionally get rid of chapters and verses in order for some lessons to become clear.

Today’s chapter is a great example of this. It begins with the statement, “It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.” The word “however” is referring back to the end of the previous chapter, but I read that chapter yesterday. That blog post was written and posted; The podcast was recorded and published. It’s a different day, and we’re on to the next chapter. It’s easy to simply ignore it.

The previous sentence at the end of chapter six says:

In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it.

Solomon spent seven years building God’s Temple.

He spent thirteen years building his palace.

There’s a lot of context missing, of course. It’s quite possible that Solomon invested a lot more manpower in order to make the Temple a priority and get it built in a shorter period of time. It’s easy to jump to conclusions. I couldn’t help but notice the numbers involved.

The Temple was built in seven years. Seven is associated with “completion” throughout the Great Story (e.g. seven days of creation). So, it would make sense that God’s Temple would be completed in seven years. In addition, it was completed in the eighth month. Eight is associated with “a new thing” as in “seven plus one.” Seven is completion, but add to it and we’re doing something new. This permanent Temple was a new version of the old traveling tent Tabernacle. Old things pass away and new things come.

Solomon’s palace was built in thirteen years. Now we have the number of completion (seven) and add to it six years. John’s Revelations speak very clearly that six is “man’s number” and the human anti-Christ’s number is 666 (three being the number of the Trinity, three sixes form an unholy trinity of man as God). I couldn’t help but think that Solomon’s palace stands as a lesson. As wise as Solomon was, this little “however” statement by the author, and the numbers involved, subtly point to the fact that Solomon’s human hubris was more important to him than a humble and obedient life in which he sought to make God the priority.

In the quiet this morning, I end this work week with a rather simple lesson resonating in my heart and mind. Do I give God a portion and save a larger portion for myself. Do I invest a part of my life in spiritual “treasure” while spending more time and energy chasing after earthly “treasure?” Will family and friends say at my funeral, “Tom was dedicated to the things of God, however...”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones (CaD 1 Ki 1) Wayfarer

Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him.
1 Kings 1:5 (NIV)

Over the past few years, I have been watching multiple series set in the history of England. Both The Last Kingdom (Netflix) and Vikings (Prime) are set in the period when England was divided into several kingdoms and the Vikings from Norway and Denmark were regularly raiding the island. The BBC’s Hollow Crown series (PBS) are modern productions of seven of Shakespeare’s historical plays following English monarchs Richard II through Richard III. So, I’ve quite literally been entertained by the intrigues, plots, and schemes of people trying to ascend power in the game of thrones that is English history.

What is lost on many people is that much of what is called the Old Testament is the history of another, more ancient game of thrones. It is ancient Israel’s own version of it, and it has all of the intrigues, plots, schemes, and assassinations you find in the history of any human kingdom.

Having just followed the story of Israel’s ancient monarchy from King Saul through King David in the books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, this chapter-a-day journey is going to press on into the epic saga beginning with 1 Kings. At the end of the 2 Samuel, David has barely survived a coup d’èta by his son, Prince Absalom. Absalom was seeking revenge because his half-brother Prince Amnon (the favored oldest son) raped his half-sister (and Absalom’s full sister) Princess Tamar, and King David did nothing about it.

Picking up the story in today’s chapter, David is old and bed-ridden. The number of his days is waning and everyone knows it. Prince Solomon, the first-born son of the scandalous marriage between David and Bathsheba, has become David’s favorite whom David had promised would succeed him.

Enter Prince Adonijah, likely the eldest remaining son after Absalom murdered his brothers and potential rivals during his failed rebellion. With David bed-ridden, his power diminished, Adonijah decides to attempt a bloodless coup. He gets the backing of a high-priest and a couple of David’s most powerful right-hand men, then arranges to have the high-priest anoint him king at a sacred place just outside of Jerusalem. They then begin a feast to celebrate.

Hearing of this, Bathsheba and the prophet, Nathan go to King David to explain what has happened. David gives orders for another priest and those loyal to him to quickly anoint Solomon and place Solomon on David’s throne as David’s chosen successor. The crowds inside Jerusalem gather and hail their new king, Solomon.

Outside the city, the self-crowned Adonijah and his followers are wrapping up their coronation party when news arrives that King David has placed Solomon on his throne. Adonijah and his followers scatter in fear that King Solomon will exact quick revenge and have them all killed. Prince Adonijah himself flees to the temple where he takes hold of the altar, hoping that King Solomon will not kill him in such a holy place. Solomon in his first recorded act as King, promises not to kill his brother as long as Adonijah remains loyal, and sends him home.

In the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that almost every human system (families, committees, churches, councils, school administrations, community groups, businesses, and etc.) is a “game of thrones.” Wherever leaders have power and/or authority over others, members within that system will challenge it, criticize it, undermine it, usurp it, and rebel against it. It’s why the founding fathers of the United States divided governing power so widely. They knew from history that the game of thrones is inherently human. By spreading out the power across three different branches and two legislative houses, they sought to ensure that power was not concentrated on a single throne, but many for which there were checks and balances to make necessary corrections and hold individuals accountable for any misuse of power.

So where do I stand in the various human systems in which I operate? How well do I do with the authority and power I have in family, business, church, and community? How well do I submit to those who are in authority over me in those same systems? Where do my loyalties lie? What does it mean to live, speak, think, act, and relate in those systems as a disciple of Jesus? Are the fruits of God’s Spirit evident in the way I conduct myself in each system?

If Jesus is my Lord, as I profess Him to be, then I acknowledge Him as the one sitting on the throne of my heart and life. How well do I submit to His authority in every area of my own life?

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The featured image image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.

The Depth’s in the Details

The Depth's in the Details (CaD 2 Sam 23) Wayfarer

…and Uriah the Hittite.
2 Samuel 23:39 (NIV)

This past weekend was our annual time at the lake with our friends Kevin and Becky. We’ve been walking the journey together for many years and our time together at the lake is always, for us, one of the pinnacles of the summer season. When Kev and Beck are here, the conversation just seems to flow non-stop from one subject to another from early morning until deep into the night’s watch.

With all of the conversations we’ve enjoyed through all of the years, you’d think we would run out of things to talk about. The truth of the matter is that the conversation simply gets deeper, more transparent, and more intimate. Late on Saturday evening, as we sat on the deck under the light of the tiki torches, the four of us were led into what I sensed was a God-ordained conversation about deeply personal matters. It was a subject we’d touched on multiple times before, but this evening we dove into details that led to what may very well be a powerfully transformational moment.

I’ve found a parallel experience in reading God’s Message day after day through the years. I can read each day, and even have read through the entirety multiple times, and I keep coming back for more. You’d think it would get old. You’d wonder why I keep reading through it. And yet, it’s a lot like conversations with Kev and Beck: It just gets deeper, more transparent, and more intimate. And sometimes you hit upon a detail that you’ve read before, but it never really registered.

So it was today that I was reading through what seems to most readers a boring list of strange, ancient names thrown into the appendices of David’s biography. This particular list was a list of men who were David’s elite warriors. These warriors were David’s special ops, his SEALs, his Rangers, his Delta Team, and his Green Berets. They were the cream of the warrior crop and their exploits were legendary in their day. And, as I’m reading through the list thanking God that most of these names were lost to antiquity, I land upon the final name in the list: Uriah the Hittite.

Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba.
Uriah the Hittite, the man David tried to deceive to cover up his adultery.
Uriah the Hittite, whom David conspired to murder to avoid public shame.
Uriah the Hittite, whose own general betrayed him on the king’s orders.

When I read through the story of David and Bathsheba, Uriah has always been a bit of a supporting cast member. You don’t give him a lot of thought. Somehow, the realization that Uriah was part of David’s “Mighty Men,” makes David’s conspiracy all the more damnable. Uriah was not a schmuck. He was well known to David. They’d fought together. Uriah had risked his life for David. He was one of the best. And David was willing to consider his own man as expendable, collateral damage in the cover-up of his personal sin.

Sometimes the real story is in the details. Even as human beings sharing life together, what makes our community and conversation transformational is found in the depth and detail of our sharing. Today, I’m thinking about people who appear to plod through life’s journey on broad super highways of bland generalities and surface conversations, zipping by on cruise control but never moving closer to real relationships and transformational conversations. Today, I’m thankful for our good companions on this sojourn who navigate with us the rustic and rutty back roads of the soul. It is difficult and slow-going, for sure, but ultimately I’ve found that it leads to places of increasing depth, meaning, and intimacy that many, tragically, may never experience.

  A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be editing and re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
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If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.