Why is God so mean?! Well…is he actually mean? Or does he simply expect us to follow his commands? A story in today’s 2 Samuel reading where Uzzah touches the ark to steady it from falling is a tough one to swallow. However, Uzzah knew the rules and chose not to follow them. Does that make God mean? Or Uzzah disobedient?
2 Samuel 4:1-6:23:
- 2 – Benjamin keeps getting mentioned because that was the tribe Saul came from.
- 5-12 – David’s wish was not to blot out all of Saul’s family from the earth. Others were simply misguided in thinking this. David had great honor for Saul and was best friends and had made a covenant of friendship and family loyalty with Jonathan.
- 3-5 – Due to Abner’s efforts when he was on Team Saul, David did not start ruling over all of Israel until after he ruled in Judah for 7 years.
- 6-10 – The Jebusites were so confident in their fortress’ strength that they taunted David’s army saying even the blind and lame could ward off attacks on the city. David ends up successfully taking the city.
- 11-12 – David recognized where his power and blessings derived. This caused him to seek God’s guidance and follow his commands.
- 1-4 – The ark of God (also known as the ark of the covenant) had been captured by the Philistines in a previous battle. David’s ability to return it to its rightful owners, the Israelites, was a huge accomplishment.
- 6-7 – Though Uzzah was simply trying to steady the ark, it was well known that the penalty, even for Levites, for touching the ark, was death. Uzzah could have avoided this by carrying the ark on his shoulder with the rest of the Levites like he was supposed to and/or knowing the law of the ark better.
- 14-15 – David’s attire is mentioned because his wild dancing most likely meant that he unintentionally exposed himself while dancing. He worshipped with such passion that he didn’t care about the consequences. Here’s an oldie but a goody based on this passage.
- 34-35 – Often people don’t recognize our faith. The main culprit is that we do not love one another.
- 36-38 – Peter truly believes in his commitment to following Christ, but Jesus already knows Peter’s limits.
- 6-7 – Another “I am” statement declaring that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Because they know and believe in Jesus, they also know the father.
- 10-11 – This is clear proof of God as Trinity. The father and son are inseparable in substance and are fully connected. Knowing the Son means knowing the Father as well.
- 13-14 – This passage begs the question, “well, what about when our prayers aren’t answered.” Many would argue that the prayer wasn’t in alignment with God’s will and this may be true. The great comfort in all this is that all earnest prayers come to fruition in eternity where there is no suffering or pain or hardship.
- 25-32 – This is a perfect prayer for us as we attempt to read and understand God’s word. If our true prayer is to gain insight and to be strengthened by God’s word, he will surely give us these things.
- We often know the wise choice, whether it’s been told to us or it’s just obvious. It’s our choice to follow wisdom or choose another way.
We’ve talked several times about how good the Israelites were at passing down stories and memories of the great things God had done for them. This time, after God sustains the Israelites against the Philistines, Samuel builds a monument called an “Ebenezer” to remind the Israelites of God’s continued faithfulness. What would make you build an Ebenezer?
1 Samuel 5:1-7:17:
- 1-5 – Dagon was a Philistine god and the Ark of the Covenant was placed in Dagon’s temple. The Dagon statue’s demise was clear that even though the Philistines defeated the Israelites, the God of Israel was greater.
- 6-4 – The ark of the Lord did not belong with the Philistines so God assured that it would be returned by plaguing any Philistine town that had it.
- 19 – Clearly the sins of these men who were struck down were great. The holiness of God and sinfulness of man cannot mix.
- 12-13 – An “Ebenezer” is a sign of remembrance. In the song, “Come Thou Fount”, in one of the later verses it says, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.” When you want to remember a great thing God has done, it’s important to make a specific note or monument to remember his faithfulness.
- 5-14 – The Feeding of the 5000 is one of very few stories found in all four gospels. Palm Sunday is another.
- 15 – Jesus made many strategic moves to keep the people from forcing him into positions that weren’t God’s will. This is why he often withdraws and regularly told people not to reveal his identity when he performed miracles.
- We read the beginning of this psalm yesterday as it recounted God’s goodness to the Israelites in the wilderness. This second portion focuses on the unfaithfulness of the Israelites in the face of God’s goodness.
- 30 – Certainly a different Phinehas than Eli’s son who was so unfaithful.
- 33 – Someone who is truly wise is not influenced by the foolishness of others around him.
Today’s reading from 1 Samuel says, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days.” We see with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others, God has conversations and advice for these people throughout their lives. But for a time, whether by God’s choice or because the Israelites had strayed so far from him, God was silent. God’s voice was so absent that Samuel didn’t recognize it when he called. Is it possible that we too have strayed far from God and don’t recognize his voice when he calls?
1 Samuel 2:22-4:22:
- 25 – Eli’s sons had sinned continually against God, choosing to sin directly against his laws, against the women who served God, and against the offerings given to God. Their hearts were hardened through their vast sins and then God chooses to harden them completely.
- 27-36 – God cuts off Eli’s family from the priesthood because of his son’s great sins. Though Eli didn’t sin to the extent of his sons, he also didn’t make a great effort to stop them.
- 1 – This means God was not speaking directly to people much at this time. This could be a choice by God or it could be because of Israel’s distance from God.
- 4 – Yet another biblical character who responds to God’s call with the faithful response, “Here I am.”
- 7 – Samuel was still young and hadn’t had a direct encounter with God so he was unable to recognize his voice. In John’s gospel Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd and because of that, the sheep know his voice.
- 9-10 – A beautiful, willing response.
- 11-15 – Eli raised Samuel so hearing such a negative report about Eli from God would be quite troubling to the young man. It is not surprising that he was scared to tell Eli.
- 19 – Samuel was eager to learn all he could from the Lord.
- 3-11 – The Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments, represented the presence of God. God could have caused the Israelites to defeat the Philistines but decided not to because of the sins of Hophni and Phinehas.
- 22 – The Ark of the Covenant being captured would be like Washington D.C. being taken over by our enemies. But it was even worse than that because it represented God no longer being in their presence.
- 25-29 – This passage tells us that there will be a resurrection for the dead and both believers and non-believers will be judged by Christ.
- 45-47 – The Jews based their holiness and worthiness on Moses’ law. When Jesus says it is Moses that will accuse them before God and not him, he is expressing that none of them have succeeded in meeting Moses’ standards and thus none can be justified before God.
- 4-5 – God was extremely gracious to his people, the Israelites and the psalmist is asking for inclusion on this treatment.
- 7-12 – Of all the great works God did for the Israelites, clearly the most significant to them was being rescued from Egypt. It is, far and away, the most referenced act of God throughout the Old Testament.
- This portion of the proverb contrasts peace and dissatisfaction. The former gives us life, while the other sucks it out of us.
In today’s Joshua reading, the Israelites probably thought they were having deja vu when God allowed Joshua to part the Jordan River so the people could cross into the Promised Land. Of course, God was showing that he was leading Joshua just like he led Moses and showing the Israelites that he would go with them into this new land just like he did into the desert.
- 3 – The Ark of the Covenant contained the 10 Commandments and represented the presence of the Lord. It is appropriate that it would enter the land before the Israelites representing God going before them.
- 7-13 – God established Joshua as the new leader so he could be exalted and respected like Moses. It is not insignificant that God proved himself and Joshua as leaders in the same way he did for Moses when they were fleeing from the Egyptians.
- 1-7 – God made it impossible for them to forget what he had done for them and the sign he had given to them that he would take care of them. He had them build a memorial so that even those, in future generations, who hadn’t seen the miracle, would ask and be told of God stopping the Jordan River and bringing the Israelites to the Promised Land.
- 7-11 – The ancient Israelites were a part of a “honor/shame” society. Every action and scenario as well as possessions contributed to your honor or shame. This instruction from Jesus asks his hearers to forego that norm and to purposefully put yourself in what would be considered a shameful position instead of trying to claim a position of honor.
- 12-14 – In order to receive honor, you needed to be associated with other honorable people. The poor, crippled, and lame were not people of honor. Again, Jesus calls us to forego the things that are elevated in our society.
- 15-24 – This parable describes how Jesus originally came to save the Jews but was rejected so his message and salvation was opened for all who would accept.
- 26-27 – Jesus uses strong language to help his hearers understand that they must offer full devotion to him. There devotion cannot be split.
- 33 – This is hard to hear, but often we try to be partially or minimally devoted to Jesus. We’d like to hang on to everything else that is fun or seemingly beneficial to us. Jesus reminds us that it’s not possible to do both.
- 4 – Because exile continued for generations, though they begged God to save them, the Israelites felt that their prayers went unheard.
- 8-13 – The Psalmist asks why God would bother saving the Israelites from Egypt and allowing them to flourish only to later allow them to be devastated by other nations.
To us circumcision is something that happens and basically is never spoken of again. To the Israelites it was an outward sign of their commitment to the God of Israel. In today’s Deuteronomy reading, Moses takes it a step further. He asks the Israelites to circumcise their hearts and get rid of their stubbornness. He lets them know that an outward symbol is no longer enough, there commitment to God must be in their hearts as well.
- 4-5 – Self-righteousness is always a struggle for people who consider themselves “good people”. The Israelites could have easily started to see they’re blessings as based on their own skill and righteousness instead of because of God’s faithfulness.
- 6-21 – Moses recounts the unfaithfulness of the Israelites in making a golden calf as God was making a covenant with them through Moses up on the mountain.
- The Ark of the Covenant, which the Israelites carried around with them, contained the 10 Commandments tablets.
- 12-13 – A good goal for anyone who wants to follow God.
- 16 – The Israelites used circumcision as an outward sign of their connection with God. Moses now calls them to an inward commitment to God.
- 1-18 – The parable of the four soils is told and then explained to the disciples. We will all hear the good news of Jesus, but each of us will receive it differently.
- 10 – Jesus quotes Isaiah here. This sounds as if Jesus told parables so people wouldn’t understand. Instead, Jesus told parables to give people opportunities to search for the truth, like the disciples, if they wanted to. For those who didn’t care to try, they didn’t receive the condemnation of willfully disobeying God’s instructions because they simply did not understand.
- 16-18 – When we hear and understand the good news, we share it.
- This Psalm seems very vengeful, which does not seem like it fits with God’s loving character. Remember, though, that this is David, a human, writing to God. This shows how honest we can be with God.
Obviously not every minute of Jesus’ life could be recorded. Mark takes that to the extreme…as in, he doesn’t even record the birth of Christ. If you ever want to give someone a version of Jesus’ ministry they can read in a week, Mark’s your guy.
- The passage says, “as the Lord had commanded Moses” several times. It is significant that the Israelites obeyed God’s instructions exactly. We also saw this from Noah when he built the ark. He followed God’s plan, “just as he instructed.”
- 20-21 – The ark of the testimony or Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God. It was, for obvious reasons, very valuable to the Israelites.
- 34-38 – God’s presence, in the form of a cloud, allowed the Israelites to know when to travel and when to stay put.
- 35 – Moses could not enter the tent while God’s presence was there because of his sins.
- Mark’s gospel moves much more quickly than any of the others. It is believed that it was the first gospel written around 70 AD. It was most likely written quickly because Christians were being badly persecuted during this time and the writer was just needing to get an account down.
- 2-4 – John the Baptist fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy about a precursor to Jesus who would prepare the way for him beginning some of his messages, particularly baptism and forgiveness of sins.
- 8 – Before John, there is not a lot of mention of the Holy Spirit.
- 9 – Note that Jesus appears in Mark as an adult. He tells nothing of his birth, childhood, or preparation for ministry.
- 11 – A powerful message from God to think about when people are baptized.
- 24 – Interesting that an unclean spirit is the first to recognize Jesus for who he is.
- David seeks revenge and God seems to grant it.
All those details, measurements, and specifications! The 2nd half of the Book of Exodus is long on detail and short on drama. But, the details are actually really interesting, if you can draw back and see the whole picture.
The 2nd half of Exodus is God telling the Israelites how to properly worship, while they are still roaming in the desert. It’s important that they get the details right, since the Living God is not someone you carelessly approach. All these details are meant to help the Israelites understand who this God is who brought them out of slavery.