Psalm 127

Unless the Lord…

“Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is useless. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” ­– Psalm 127:1 NLT

This is a psalm written by Solomon, the son of David who ascended to the throne after him. Solomon was the one who had the privilege and responsibility of building the temple that David had proposed and done all the preparation for. Solomon, as you might recall, was also considered the wisest man who ever lived. Which is significant to think about when you read this short psalm. In it he reminds us that unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is useless. I have to believe he wasn’t just thinking about any house. I think he probably had the temple in mind. That was one of the crowning achievements of his reign – constructing the house of God in Jerusalem. And I am sure that this message had been drummed into his head by his father David. David had made sure that Solomon knew the success of his reign was directly tied to his faithfulness to God. Solomon had been taught that without God everything becomes worthless and valueless, no matter how grand and impressive it may appear. A powerful kingdom without the power of God behind it was destined to failure. A city protected by a wall and surrounded by watchmen was more than vulnerable to defeat without the presence of God in their midst. Rising at the crack of dawn and putting in a full day of hard work would be fruitless and prove unnecessary when God could provide for you even while you were asleep.

The main theme to this little psalm is the uselessness of life without God. But it also talks about the many blessings involved with a life in which God is intimately involved. He uses the example of children and reminds us that they are a gift from God. They are of far greater value than a house or city we might build, or a career we might pursue. Yet oftentimes we can see our children as burdens rather than blessings. Yet with the help of God and a mindset that recognizes that they are given to us by Him, we can see great benefits and blessings in our lives as we raise them to walk in His ways. Unless the Lord builds a house or builds a family, the work of the builders in useless. Unless I recognize that I cannot build a healthy family without the help of God, no amount of energy or effort I exert will assure future success. This psalm is not advocating complacency or inactivity, it is reminding us of the essential nature of God’s presence in everything we do – in all of life. I must make Him an integral part of every aspect of my life. To not do so, the psalmist teaches us, would be to court disaster and ensure our ultimate failure. Whether we’re building a house, protecting our home, raising a family, or pursuing a career, we need to include our heavenly Father in all that we do.

Father, I have done a lot over the years without including You at all. And I can attest to the fact that it is useless and ultimately worthless. Even my greatest achievements accomplished without Your help have proven to be short-lived and not all that enjoyable. But anything I have done in my life where You were at the center of it has proved to be a blessing. Help me to see that life without You is worthless so that I will want to include You all the time and in everything. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Chronicles 26; 27

A Passion For The Things of God

“They were responsible for all matters related to the things of the LORD and the service of the king…” ­– 1 Chronicles 26:30 NLT

As you read these closing chapters of the book of 1 Chronicles, you have to keep reminding yourself that all of this is being done by David – a man who dreamed of building a house for the Lord, but was denied that privilege by God. Instead, David’s son, Solomon, would construct the temple. But instead of pout and take his toys and go home, David decided he would do the next best thing. He began gathering all the materials and establishing the organizational backbone that would make the temple possible. Here he is in the closing days of his administration and life, and he is spending the vast majority of his time ensuring that everything needed to make the construction of the temple possible is ready. Not only that, he is putting in place all the administrative and organizational aspects of building and maintaining the temple in place – long before construction has even begun.

The amount of detail in these chapters is amazing. It can make for a difficult, if not boring read. But it reveals David’s passion for God. Even though he will never see the completed temple or worship in it, he is going to make sure that it is built and that it is worthy of the One who will occupy it. I guess I am amazed at the magnitude of David’s passion for God. He could just as easily have decided that since he is not going to get to build the temple, then all the work should fall on Solomon. But he was not going to take the risk that this dream of his would somehow die along with him. He was determined to see the temple built and his God honored. So he works diligently and determinedly to make sure every aspect of the temple’s construction and ongoing maintenance is covered. His zeal for God’s house reminds me of how Jesus reacted when He found the money changers selling inside the temple when He arrived in Jerusalem for Passover. He became angry and physically threw them out of the place. He was not going to allow His Father’s house to be defiled in such a way. Like Jesus, David had a passion for the things of God. You might even say he was obsessed. He was consumed with the idea that the temple was to be a fitting dwelling place for the God of the universe. God deserved it. And David was going to see that God got what He deserved. Even if he never got to see it himself. Now that is dedication.

Dr. Thomas L. Constable puts it this way, “His preoccupation with God’s promises and his preparations for their fulfillment served as a good example for Chronicles’ original readers. David’s zeal for the house of the Lord reflected his zeal for the reputation of the Lord. He truly put God’s glory before his own personal ambitions.” Could the same be said of me? Do I put God’s glory above my own personal ambitions? Is making God great and making Him known more important to me than anything else? Sadly, the answer is most often, “No.” But as we get ready to enter into another new year, that kind of attitude can change. I can and will make God number one in my life. I will give Him the glory He deserves. I will recognize His greatness and tell others about it. I will make the reputation of God more important than my own. What about you?

Father, like David, I will never get to build a temple for You. I never even came up with the dream to do so in the first place. But there are so many things I can do to bring You glory. Forgive me for the many times I make my own glory my passion. I want to fulfill my dreams and plans and make my own name known in the land. Give me the passion of David. May I spend the remaining years of my life doing anything and everything to give You glory and make You known. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalms 143; 144; 145

Great Is Our God!

“Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! His greatness is beyond discovery!” ­– Psalm 145:3 NLT

Christian singer and songwriter, Chris Tomlin, has a song out that we sing often in church. It is one of my favorites.

The splendor of a King,
clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice,
all the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light,
and darkness tries to hide
it trembles at his voice,
trembles at his voice

How great is our God,
sing with me
How great is our God,
and all will see
How great
How great is our God

And age to age He stands
and time is in His Hands
Beginning and the End,
Beginning and the End
The Godhead, three in one
Father, Spirit, Son
the Lion and the Lamb,
the Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing
how great is our God
Name above all names
you are worthy of all praise
and my heart will sing
how great is our God

How great is our God. Great song and a great question. But just how great is He? Have you ever thought about it? If you had to describe the greatness of God, what words would you use? What examples from personal experience could you bring up? The Psalms remind us constantly of His greatness and how He deserves our praise. But why? What do we have to praise Him for? Do we really believe He is great or are they just words we sing without really thinking about what we say? As I read these three Psalms this morning, it struck me how little I think about God’s greatness. The Psalmist says, “Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy of your righteousness” (Psalms 145:4-7 NLT). Do I do that? Do I tell my kids about the greatness of God – from personal experience? Do I think about his majesty and splendor? Do I find myself talking about His awe-inspiring deeds to those around me? The answer to all those questions is “No.” Too much of the time God is a concept to me, rather than a personal and powerful presence in my life. I study and read about Him. I even pray to Him. But His majesty, power, greatness and goodness are more academic than experiential. Part of the problem is that I don’t think about Him enough. I don’t look for Him in my day. I don’t recognize Him in my daily life. I have learned to operate as if He is not even there. I include Him when necessary, but I have basically learned to live life without Him. I fail to recognize His mercy, compassion and kindness. I don’t realize that the next breath I breathe is a gift from Him. My very existence is completely up to Him. Every meal I eat is due to His kindness. The home I live in was provided by Him, not me. The family I was born into and the wife and children I live with were all given to me by God. God’s greatness and goodness are all around me, but I have learned to ignore it or look right past it.

Praise is a habit. The more you practice praise, the more you see that is praiseworthy. The Psalmist said, “I will praise you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. I will bless you every day, and I will praise you forever” (Psalms 145:1-2 NLT). He made a habit of praising God. He looked for things to be thankful for. He learned to thank God for past examples of His greatness. I need to do the same thing. I need to begin praising Him more, thanking Him more, and looking for His greatness all around me. Because my God truly is great.

Father, You are great and greatly to be praised. Forgive me for not recognizing Your greatness enough. For not talking about it and thanking You for the countless examples that surround my life every day. Give me eyes to see what You are doing in and around my life. Give me breath to speak of your greatness to my wife and kids and all those in my life who need to here just how great You really are. May praising You become a daily habit for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalms 131; 138; 139

He Knows Me!

“O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.” ­– Psalm 139:1-4 NLT

God knows you. He knows everything about you. He know things about you that you don’t even know about yourself. Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t that boggle your mind? It does mine. Because I struggle so much just with knowing a little bit about God. Sure, I know a lot of facts about God, but I wrestle with just how much I truly know Him. His knowledge of me is intimate and vast. After all, He made me. The Scriptures tell me He even knows the numbers of hairs on my head – even the ones I’ve lost! But do I know Him like that? No. But it is incredible to think that He knows me so well and is so deeply interested in me. David said that God knows my thoughts – even when I am far away. He knows where I am every minute of every day. You would think God is too busy to worry about where I am. But no, He is never too busy for me. He even knows what I am going to say before I say it. I agree with David when he says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know!” (Psalm 139:6 NLT).

There is no place I can go to escape from God. I can’t hide from Him, even though I have tried. I can’t keep anything from Him, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying. I can never get away from His presence. Why? Because He is everywhere all the time? No, because He cares for me. Now that is amazing. He won’t let me out of His sight. This one who cares for me so much is the same one who made me. He crafted me into exactly the person He wanted me to be. He knew what He was doing when He made my body, gave me my talents and abilities, and placed me in the time and place where I am living. Nothing was a mistake. Nothing about my life was not blind luck or fate. I have a God who made me, cares for me, watches over me, and has a plan for my life. Now that really is too great for me to know. But I need the reminder to consider just how much God loves me and cares for me. I lose sight of that fact easily and regularly. I can start to feel lonely and isolated, alone and distant from the God who created me. I can try to hide from Him because I think I’ve disappointed Him. I can begin to believe that He doesn’t even know I exist. Then I read the words of David and am reminded that nothing could be further from the truth. “This is too much, too wonderful – I can’t take it all in!” (Psalm 139:6 MSG).

Father, help me remember what I’ve read today. Help me to believe it, think about it, stake my life on it. Because it is as true about me as it was about David when he wrote it. Forgive me for the many times I try to hide from You, embarrassed over my behavior and fearful of Your reaction to it. Help me to understand that I can’t hide anything from You, because You are always there. You know me better than I know myself. You are never surprised by my actions or words. Because You know. And in spite of what You know about me, You love me. You care for me. And You never let me out of Your sight. Thank You! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Chronicles 25

Preaching and Singing.

“Next David and the worship leaders selected some from the family of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun for special service in preaching and music. Here is the roster of names and assignments:” ­– 1 Chronicles 25:1 MSG

The temple David had dreamed of building was going to be more than just a place to come and offer sacrifices. It would feature the perpetual worship of God. He would be the solitary focus within its walls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In chapter 25 of 2 Chronicles, we are told that David assigned a group of men to do nothing but “proclaim God’s messages to the accompaniment of harps, lyres, and cymbals” (2 Chronicles 25:1b NLT).  They were worship leaders, and as such, they were to speak the truth of God set to music. In essence, they formed a temple choir for the purpose of praising God through music and song.  Music, always near and dear to David’s heart, was going to play a significant role in the new temple that Solomon would construct. And us usual, David did his part to ensure that there were man assigned to this duty.

When we think of the temple we tend to only take into account the sacrificial system and the Holy of Holies, that innermost place where the presence of God was said to dwell. But as this passage indicates, there was so much more to temple worship than animal sacrifices. The building itself was an incredible sight to behold with its magnificent gold overlays, tapestries, pillars and ornate furnishings. It was a feast for the ears as much as it was for the eyes. Music filled the structure with a variety of instruments and human voices being used to praise God at all times. Visiting the completed temple would have been a sensory overload – filled with sights and sounds designed to praise and bring glory to God. He was the focus. Walking into the temple would have left little doubt that God was the center of attention. The sacrifices were for Him, but so was the music. The entire structure was built just for Him. Think about the difference between then and now. So much of what we refer to as “the house of God” today is about us. Our churches are built to bring us comfort and to accommodate our needs. Even the music is designed in many ways to entertain and encourage us. The sermons are directed at us. Rather than lift up the name of God and celebrate the Word of God, many messages from pulpits across our country today have become little more than short positive motivational speeches or talks filled with tips on how to live a better life. While the buildings themselves may be impressive architecturally, they do little to lift up and glorify God. Sadly to say, they have become man-centered, rather than God-honoring.

But David was not interested in building a place where men could feel encouraged and entertained. He wanted to build a house suitable for his God. He wanted everything about it to speak of the glory and majesty of God. It was to be magnificent in every detail, because David’s God was magnificent in every detail. From the smallest brick laid to the highest note played, everything about the temple was to be about God, because He deserved it.

Father, we have somehow lost the significance of You even in our worship of You. We have made it all about us. We build buildings and sing songs that are designed with us in mind more than You. Help us to learn from David that You are always to be the center of our attention, the focus of our worship, and the reason for our existence. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Chronicles 23; 24

Passing the Torch.

“When David was an old man, he appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel.” ­– 1 Chronicles 23:1 NLT

The older I get the more I find myself thinking about my legacy. What am I going to leave behind? What will people think about me when I’m gone? What will my children have to remember me by? They probably won’t be fighting over the family estate or the contents of my will. Vast sums of cash will not end up dividing my family. If anyone of my children are hoping to strike it rich when I pass on, they’re going to be sorely disappointed. But I do hope to leave them something. Like memories and knowledge that I loved them – if not perfectly, consistently. They will have my library of books, which will remind them that I loved to read and that, most of all, I loved to read books about our faith. They will have access to articles I have written and CDs containing messages I have given. These will remind them ofmy love for the Word and my passion for teaching it. They will know that I loved their mother passionately and completely – right up to the end. I hope they’ll recall my sense of humor. At least I thought I had a sense of humor. I tried to laugh at life and even at myself. But if there is one thing I want to leave my children, it is my love for the Lord. .

David had that same desire. He wanted Solomon to love and serve God. He knew that the key to Solomon’s success was going to be the health of his relationship with God, not the size of his army or the amount of gold in his treasury. So as David neared the end of his life, he did all he could do to help prepare Solomon for a future without him. And one of the things that was high on David’s list was the construction of the temple. This was about more than building a magnificent building. It was about building a dwelling place for God Himself. The temple would assure the presence of God in the midst of the people of Israel. It would be a permanent and constant reminder of their dependence on God as they worshiped and offered sacrifices to God. So David did all he could do to make sure the temple got built. He was not going to let Solomon forget about it or change his mind. David made all the right preparations so that Solomon’s job would be fairly easy. David did the heavy lifting, so Solomon could complete the task with relative ease.

That is what I hope I am doing. I want to set the foundation upon which my children and grandchildren will build their lives and their love for God. I want to spend the remaining years of my life doing the heavy lifting, so that my kids can have all that they need to enjoy a vibrant relationship with God all the days of their lives. In reading these two chapters of 1 Chronicles, we see David gathering, assigning, numbering, and preparing for a day he would not even be around to experience. Isn’t that what we should be doing – preparing for a day when we will no longer be around? That’s what a legacy is all about. It is leaving something of value behind that will be worth more than even if I was here. David’s contribution to the completion of the temple was inestimable. You couldn’t put a value on it. The time I spend now preparing building a spiritual legacy for my kids and grandkids is also beyond value. It is time well-spent. It will pay dividends for generations to come. David could have spent his remaining years wasting time on himself, enjoying life, taking advantage of the peace they were enjoying as a nation to travel, play golf, read, relax, take up a new hobby, etc. But he knew that the temple was going to be essential, because the temple was going to be the dwelling place of God – and God was the key to the future success of Solomon and the nation. So instead of relaxing, David planned and prepared. He was building a legacy.

Father, help me prepare for the future. Show me how to leave a legacy for future generations that will long outlast me. Keep me focused on the kingdom and not my own little world of comfort and convenience. Give us a parents a passion to prepare the way for our children and grandchildren. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalm 110

He Reigns and He’s Going To Return.

“The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” ­– Psalm 110:2 NLT

This is a Messianic Psalm. It predicts the coming return and reign of Christ on earth. It is short and sweet, painting in just a few lines the future rule of Christ. It establishes Jesus as not only a descendant of David, but His Lord and Master. He is the Messiah. This Psalm should be a comfort to all of us who call ourselves Christ-followers. It is a reminder of how the story ends. Even though we see a lot of suffering in the world and even question how this whole mess is going to get worked out in the end, David reminds us that Christ still reigns and rules in heaven, and one day He is going to return and put all things right. Jesus may have come as an innocent baby the first time, but He isn’t going to return that way. He will be the conquering king and warrior who defeats all the enemies of God and sets up His righteous rule here on earth. That is not a hope. It is a certainty. It is going to happen. We can count on it. It is all part of God’s perfect divine plan. When He returns, Jesus will judge the nations – justly and righteously. He will make all things right. And that future hope should bring us present peace.

Father, thank You for reminding me that Your plan is still in place. You are not done yet. Your Son will return one day. He will set up His rule right here on earth. Justice will be done. Righteousness will be the rule of the day. Help me to keep my mind focused on that reality. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Psalms 108; 109

An Uncomfortable, But Honest Prayer.

“May his children become fatherless, and may his wife become a widow. May his children wander as beggars; may they be evicted from their ruined homes. May creditors seize his entire estate, and strangers take all he has earned. Let no one be kind to him; let no one pity his fatherless children. May all his offspring die. May his family name be blotted out in a single generation.” ­– Psalm 109:9-13 NLT

One word comes to mind when I read a Psalm like this: Uncomfortable. Or maybe even shocking. I read it and am surprised that these words came out of the mouth of David, the man after God’s own heart. But there they are in black and white for all to see and read. Psalm 109 is what is known as an imprecatory prayer. It is a prayer for evil or misfortune to come on someone else – usually an enemy. In the Bible, an imprecatory prayer is the prayer of a righteous man who is asking God to carry out justice by bringing punishment or destruction on those who have done evil and have been mistreating or abusing him. A first read of this Psalm can be a little disconcerting. The requests of David are severe and seem to be motivated by an extreme hatred. He is obviously upset and has been suffering greatly at the hands of this enemy. We are not told who this person or persons is, but David wishes nothing but ill-will against them. He makes it painfully clear what he would like God to do to them. He basically wants him dead, leaving his wife a widow and his children to beg. Is David wrong for praying this prayer? Is he letting his anger get the best of him? If so, why does God include this Psalm in the Bible?

While the things David requests may make us a bit uncomfortable, we can probably relate at some level. We have all had someone in our lives who we wished evil upon. We may not have put it in the form of a prayer, but we thought about it, even dreamed about it. We may not have been quite as harsh as David was, but we probably wanted to see some kind of harm come to the one who had harmed us. This is a purely human reaction. We want revenge. We want vengeance to be done. This is not necessarily wrong. Especially if the evil done to us is truly evil and sinful. But David knew something we all need to know: Vengeance is God’s business, not ours. That’s why David took his issue to God. I think there is a point at which David knew that what this person had done to him was in direct opposition to the will of God. David had shown them love and their response had been nothing but evil. “I love them, but they try to destroy me — even as I am praying for them! They return evil for good, and hatred for my love” (Psalm 109:4-5 NLT). Their actions were sinful and ungodly, and he knew that God was opposed to everything they had done to him. So he took his case to God and pleaded for justice in the form of vengeance. He was only asking God to do to this individual the same thing he had done to David and probably others. Basically David was asking God to let this man reap what he sowed. Where it gets really uncomfortable for most of us is when David starts asking for bad things to happen to the guys wife and kids. This seems a bit extreme. But this does not mean David had unbridled hatred for the man’s family. It only reveals David’s understanding of how things worked in their society. These are the natural consequences of life in the culture of David’s day. A man and his offspring were inseparably linked. The actions of one directly influenced the other. The sins of this man and their punishment would be felt by his wife, children, and ancestors. That was the way things worked in their society. So David is really praying out the consequences of this man’s deserved punishment.

David knew that God hated sin and injustice and so his prayer is not inappropriate or sinful. He is simply expressing a hatred for sin that mirrored that of God. He wants to see God’s will be done. Sure, he is not shy in expressing his own opinion as to what that will should be, but at the end of the day, he wants to see God mete out justice and vengeance on this person who was not only David’s enemy, but an enemy of God. But what balances this Psalm out is David’s request that God express His love and faithfulness to him. “But deal well with me, O Sovereign LORD, for the sake of your own reputation! Rescue me because you are so faithful and good” (Psalm 109:21 NLT). David understands that God wants to bless the righteous and punish the wicked. That is what this prayer is all about. It is a request for God to be God and do what only God can do. Only God can rescue David and turn the evil this person has done to him into blessing. Only God can punish this individual justly and righteously, returning on him the kind of evil he has been dishing out.

Imprecations are effective only when we see sin as God does and when we ask Him to deal with sin as He has promised to deal with it in His Word. David was simply praying back to God what he knew to be true about God and His divine view of sin. David was praying the kind of punishment for sin that God had already expressed as proper and just. And the most important point is that David was praying with a clean and innocent heart. He had done nothing to deserve the treatment he was receiving. He was innocent. That is a critical point in praying an imprecatory prayer. Had David been guilty of mistreatment of this man, his prayers would have been improper and unheeded by God. He stood guiltless before God and was suffering unjustly, so he knew that God would step into that kind of situation. God protects His own. He defends His sheep. David’s prayer came out of a firm understanding of who God was and what He stood for more than a hatred for his enemy. His prayer was driven by a desire to see justice done and God intervene. “Help me, O LORD my God! Save me because of your unfailing love. Let them see that this is your doing, that you yourself have done it, LORD” (Psalm 109:26-27 NLT). David wanted to see God’s will done and His power manifested to all those around him. God’s glory was David’s foremost desire.

Father, give me a hatred for evil that is more powerful than my hatred for any particular individual and what they might do to me. May I learn to see any injustice done to me as an injustice done to You. This is more about You than me. May I learn to desire Your glory by seeing Your will be done – in my life and circumstances. Give me a greater understanding of Your hatred of evil and the manner in which You punish it, so that I might pray according to Your will and not mine. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Chronicles 21; 22

Sound Fatherly Advice.

“And may the LORD give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the law of the LORD your God as you rule over Israel. For if you carefully obey the laws and regulations that the LORD gave to Israel through Moses, you will be successful. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart!” ­– 1 Chronicles 22:12-13 NLT

David’s days are coming to an end. He is growing old and his reign as the king of Israel is just about over. He has had a roller coaster reign as king filled with wars, domestic disputes, and enough ups and down to leave his head spinning. But as he contemplates the close of his time as king, one thing is on his mind: The construction of the temple he had longed to build for God. Even though God had denied David the right to construct the temple himself, David was still excited about the prospect of his son, Solomon, fulfilling this life-long dream of his. So he began the process of buying the land, collecting the materials, and providing much of what was necessary for the process of construction to begin once he was gone and Solomon had ascended to the throne in his place.

But David knew there was more that Solomon was going to need than construction materials. He knew from first-hand experience that Solomon was going to need to be obedient. Building the temple would be useless and pointless if the one constructing it was disobedient to God. Over the years, David had learned the importance of faithful obedience to God in his role as king. So he passed along what he had learned to his young son, Solomon:

“Now, my son, may the LORD be with you and give you success as you follow his instructions in building the Temple of the LORD your God. And may the LORD give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the law of the LORD your God as you rule over Israel. For if you carefully obey the laws and regulations that the LORD gave to Israel through Moses, you will be successful. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart!” – 1 Chronicles 22:11-13

David told Solomon that success in building the temple would be tied to following God’s instructions for it. This was not to be Solomon’s temple but God’s. He was to listen to God and do exactly what he was told. David prayed that God would give his son wisdom and understanding, and that Solomon would obey God’s law all the years of his kingship. David knew that obedience was the key to success as God’s man. Then he encourages Solomon to be strong and courageous, and to not let fear or a sense of defeat mark his reign. David reminded Solomon…

“The LORD your God is with you,” he declared. “He has given you peace with the surrounding nations. He has handed them over to me, and they are now subject to the LORD and his people. Now seek the LORD your God with all your heart. Build the sanctuary of the LORD God so that you can bring the Ark of the LORD’s covenant and the holy vessels of God into the Temple built to honor the LORD’s name.” – 1 Chronicles 22:18-19 NLT

David was leaving his son a powerful kingdom enjoying a time of unprecedented peace. He was leaving him royal treasuries filled with the plunder from successful military campaigns. He was leaving him a beautiful royal palace and a well-fortified city in which to live. He was leaving him a well-respected name and legacy of leadership that was hard to match. But the best thing David left his son was his encouragement to obey God faithfully. David knew this was the secret to his success. He wanted Solomon to be a man after God’s own heart just as he was. And at the end of the day, the best way to recognize a man after God’s own heart is through his life of faithful, consistent obedience. Sure, there were days David disobeyed and failed to follow God’s plan. But he always returned to God, recognizing his sin, taking responsibility for it, and repenting of it. He wanted Solomon to understand that the temple would be useless and impractical if the God for whom it was being built never occupied it. And the quickest way to make that happen would be through disobedience.

David left Solomon a lot, but the best thing he left him was some sound fatherly advice. “Now seek the Lord your God with all your heart.”

Father, may that be the advice I leave my own children. May I learn that there is nothing I can leave behind that is more valuable than my understanding that faithful obedience to You is the key to real success. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Samuel 24; Psalm 30

Recognition. Repentance. Responsibility.

“David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly and shouldn’t have taken the census. Please forgive me, LORD, for doing this foolish thing.'” ­– 2 Samuel 24:10 NLT

This is a fascinating passage and one that is full of confusing and seemingly contradictory content. It starts out with God angry at Israel. We’re not tol why, but He is upset enough that He takes action against them and He chooses to use David as a tool to accomplish His will. We are told that God “incited Dvaid against them.” I don’t think this means that David suddenly got angry with Israel and set out to harm them. But David made a decision, in the divine pan of God, that would bring harm to Israel. Over in 1 Chronicles 21, the companion passage to this one, we are told that “Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the Israelites” (1 Chronicles 21:1 NLT). So now it appears as if Satan is involved. But the word for Satan can also simply mean adversary. With that in mind, the New English Translation renders this verse “An adversary opposed Israel, inciting David to count how many warriors Israel had.” Whether Satan himself was involved or not, it would seem that David has tempted to take a census in order to find out just how many troops he had so that he could face a possible war with confidence. In essence, he was checking the balance on his checking account before making a significant purchase. So was this wrong? Was David sinning in taking a census? Even Jesus, in one of His parables, tells the story of a king who sat down and took stock of his troops before going to battle. “…what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:31 NASB).

So what is going on? God is angry with Israel. He determines to somehow use David to punish them. And David, in reaction to a possible threat of battle, finds himself tempted to take a census in order to determine just how many battle-ready soldiers he has. But consider this: David’s sin was not in taking the census. It was in failing to trust God. It’s obvious that David took the census to determine his military strength, and this was not necessarily sin. After all, we have other accounts in Scripture where God directed Moses to take a census of the people (cf. Exod. 30:11-12; Num. 1:1-2). So census taking was not the problem. It seems that David’s sin was placing confidence in the number of his soldiers rather than in the Lord. Now keep in mind, this is the same David who wrote the words, “Some nations boast of their armies and weapons, but we boast in the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7 NLT). For whatever reason, at this point late in his reign, he finds himself doubting God and turning to an earthly source for his protection and confidence. God would use David’s decision to punish the people of Israel. David’s sin would have consequences on the entire nation.

The result is a plague sent from God that destroys 70,000 of the people. David is horrified and pleads to God. He recognizes his sin and takes responsibility for it. He repents. He even asks God to spare the people and pour out His wrath on him. “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are innocent — what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family” (2 Samuel 24:17 NLT). God commands David to offer up a sacrifice as a payment for his sin. It required him to buy a piece of land where he could erect an altar to the Lord. When the land owner offers the land free of charge and all the animals to make the sacrifice at no cost, David refuses. “No, I insist on buying it, for I cannot present burnt offerings to the LORD my God that have cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24 NLT). David knew that his sacrifice had to be just that – a sacrifice. It had to cost him something. For his sacrifice to have value, it had to be worth something. A sacrifice that costs nothing is no sacrifice at all.

In his commentary on this passage, Dr. Thomas L. Constable says, “Whenever someone whom God has chosen for special blessing sins he or she becomes the target of God’s discipline, and he or she also becomes a channel of judgment to others. Only repentance will turn the situation around. When David agreed to obey God’s will revealed through Gad, he began at once to become a source of blessing again.” This reveals a lot about David and shows why he was considered a man after God’s own heart. While other men would have become angry at God over His punishment of Israel or simply allowed the people to continue to die as long as his own family was safe, David took responsibility for his role in the whole affair. He knew he was responsible for the well-being of the people as their shepherd. He also knew he was responsible for their suffering. He owned up to his role in the situation. He repented and made restitution. He restored his relationship with God and God relented.

What’s fascinating is that God would use His punishment of Israel to bring them future blessing. The very land that David bought to erect his altar to God would become the site on which Solomon’s temple would be built. Dr. Constable goes on to say, “Solomon’s temple became the centerpiece of Israel for
hundreds of years. It was the place where God met with His people and they worshipped Him corporately, the center of their spiritual and national life. Therefore the mention of the purchase of Araunah’s threshing floor was the first step in the building of the temple, the source of incalculable blessing to come (Genesis 23:3-16).

Isn’t that the way God works? He is angry with Israel over some sin they have committed. He uses the pride and self-sufficiency of their king to bring punishment on them. That same man, whom God had chosen to begin with, recognizes his sin and repents. He obediently listens to God and buys a tract of land in order to sacrifice to God, and God uses that very same land to have His temple constructed. Just coincidence? I don’t think so. God had a plan all along and He was working it to perfection. He can even use our sins and disobedience to accomplish His divine will. He can bring blessing out of our rebellion.

Father, You are always working Your will. Nothing I do can get in the way. My sins don’t diminish it, distract from it, or derail it. You even bring blessing out of our rebellion. You can turn our sin into opportunities to shower us with Your grace and mercy. The key is repentance. Keep me repentant Father. Don’t let me become hard of heart and stubborn in my response to sin. May I quickly recognize it, take ownership for it, then repent of it. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men