Who is Greatest in the Kingdom?

1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29

The topic of our conversations, often in sports, is who is the greatest player today and of all times.  G.O.A.T. is the question we often speculate upon. 

That is also a theme in the Bible, and as often is the case, the Bible’s view of a topic is often the opposite of the culture that we are immersed in.  That is the case with our text this week.  Solomon has died, and his son Rehoboam is ready to take the crown over all the tribes of Israel.  He is asked about what his administration will be like, especially in contrast to some of the excesses of his father.  As the king, would he be a servant for God’s people, or would he be like the other kings of the nations, and see his will as the divine will.  His elder counselors advised him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.”

Humility is such a difficult character quality.  Yet, humility is required for us even to enter the kingdom of God, it is required for our walk with God, and without God will oppose us in our endeavors.  Humility was the nature of Christ Jesus, the servant of all, the one that gave his life for many.
Rehoboam’s pride split the kingdom of Israel.  Jeroboam became king of the northern tribes and led the people into apostasy that eventually brought God’s judgment by the Assyrians.  Just think of all the heartache, pain and loss of life that flowed from Rehoboam’s lack of humility.  Often the same thing happens to us.  Our pride alienates us from those that we should love, and harms those that are closest to us.  Many churches are closed to day because of a lack of humility in times of trial.
Throughout the biblical record, the words of James 4:10 are proven to be true: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Pastor Greg   

Let everything that breaths praise the lord! Praise the Lord!

2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5; Psalm 150

     The week’s text confronts us in the emotional morass that seems to be all around us.  With the savagery and now vicious war that we are witnessing on the TV, with the protests and demonstrations by those that seem not to be persuaded by facts, and the unfavorable forecasts for the economic future with continued inflation and rising prices, it seems everyone around us is falling into its grip.

   How does this text confront our emotional disquietness?  By loud cymbals, horns, tambourines and jubilant dancing!  This time of Israel’s history is when David had won the civil war with the House of Saul, and was king over Judah in Jerusalem.  The Northern Kingdom still had a son of Saul as their king for 7 years, and after internal conflict all the tribes united under David.  As part of the healing of the conflict and war, David seeks to unite the people not under him, but under God by restoring the Ark of the Covenant, after 50 years, to its rightful place in the center of God’s people.  God was again the focus of the people of Israel, and this was the cause of jubilation and exaltation.

     It is so easy for me to be caught up in the hopeless mindset of our world.  From the macro issues of expanding wars to the micro issues of increase in gas prices, hopeless wants to overwhelm us.  When we allow this, we lose our focus on God, the loving God that should be at the center of our lives.

     David leads the people of God dancing in front of the procession to restore the Ark to its rightful place—to recognizing the presence of God as the central focus of our hearts.  When we put God where God belongs in our lives, it causes us to leap for joy and praise the Lord with our entire breath. 
“Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7

Pastor Greg

Bitterness and Life

Ruth 1:1-22 

This week’s text we meet two women, Naomi and Ruth.  We are told they are both widowed, and Naomi has also lost her two sons.  There are no children or grandchildren to bring them comfort.  Naomi’s family were environmental refugees in the land of Moab.  There she witnessed her sons marrying local women, her husband dying and then her two sons died.  Now she is left with the responsibility of caring for her two daughters-in-law. 

She decides to return to her home in Israel, but obviously her daughters-in-law will not be welcomed there.  She releases them from their obligations to her, sending them back to their mother’s house.  Except, Ruth remains.  Sunday will focus on Ruth. 

But think today about Naomi.  When she returns to Bethlehem, she has changed, people do not recognize her, and she takes a new name with her changed identity.  She is Mara.  Naomi means “pleasant,” and Mara means “bitter (see Exodus 15:23).”  She had gone out full but came back empty.  Life or the Almighty had afflicted her, and she was bitter. 

When have you found yourself in that situation?  You thought you were going after the better life but did not seek the will of God for your life.  You thought you were smarter than others around you but only fell flat on your face.  You have come to the conclusion of the experience only to wind up empty, desolate, and bitter.  This is the story of Naomi, and through the book of Ruth God brings here back to joy.  Find that at the end of the book, Ruth 4. 

Pastor Greg

No Commandment Without a Commander

Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9  

 Where do our laws come from?  Some may read this passage from Deuteronomy and say Moses is the commander.  Some have the idea that all law comes from the King or the State, so whatever it says is legal is right.  But an honest reading of the Bible, we clearly see that the Commander, the Lawgiver is God.    

 How important is it for us to see that God is the One giving us these commands?  If it were just an individual’s opinions, they could be challenged, like Korah challenged Moses in Numbers 16.  If it were the State, then the laws would change with the whim of the ruling class.  This means there is no lasting morality to guide the legislation of new laws.  But with God as the giver of these commandment, we have a moral system that does not change and a judge that administers the law fairly.  The good are rewarded and the evil are punished.            

These 10 Commandments (or Hebrew “Words”) are given particularly to Israel, but in generally to the whole world.  God intends for them to be a guide for human relationships, morality, and civil order.  God gave these commands not for us to think we can earn our way to heaven.  God gave them so that we may live a happier life as God’s children.       

For me, one interesting aspect of the review of the giving of the commandments here in Deuteronomy is that God is described as the One that set the slaves free and delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt.  These commandments were for the purpose of humans to live as a free people.  Then with the Sabbath command God says that the Sabbath is to be observed because the people were once slaves in Egypt.  A slave is seen as a worker, the value is only in the work that can be extracted from the slave.  This speaks directly to our model of industrialization used to organize our society.  The purpose of the modern school system (based upon the Prussian public education) is to produce workers for industry and consumers for the products.  The individual is valued only for the work.      

Yet if our God, the Giver of our law, is the God who created male and female in God’s own image, then liberated them from bondage and toil, this means that God sees humans as meant for more than work.  And Sabbath is the space that God commands people to be fully human.      

With God as the Giver of the Commandments, humans are elevated to a purpose higher than the tillers of the ground or the assemblers of widgets.  In the Sabbath, all economic and social levels are the same as we enjoy the freedom provided for us in God’s commands.  

Next Week The book of Ruth and a view of a different type of family. 

Pastor Greg