1 Chronicles 13 – Good Intentions vs Obedience

Picture this…a father and son are having a great time playing ball in the front yard. Then, the ball rolls past the boy and into the street. Without thinking, the boy runs into the street after the ball. Suddenly the mood changes. The father sternly raises his voice and commands the boy to stop. Then, the father disciplines the boy for going into the street; something he had repeatedly been told not to. The game is suddenly over and the boy doesn’t feel like playing ball anymore.

Though overly simplified, this is what happens in 1 Chronicles chapter 13. David and the people want the presence of God to be in the center of their nation, so they decide to move the Ark of the Covenant to the capital city of Jerusalem.

There’s great rejoicing until the oxen pulling the cart carrying the Ark stumbles and the Ark begins to topple. Without thinking, Uzzah put his hand on the Ark to steady it. Suddenly, the atmosphere changes. God becomes angry with Uzzah and strikes him dead. Then David – hurt and angry with God’s reaction – decides not to bring the Ark to Jerusalem. The game’s over.

David and the people had good intentions in bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. Uzzah had good intentions in trying to keep the Ark from falling over. So why was God so harsh?

God had given clear instructions on how the Ark was to be moved. It was only to be carried by priests, using golden poles placed through the rings on the Ark. And not even the priests were to touch the Ark with their hands.

But, despite clear instructions, they were carrying the Ark on a cart pulled by oxen. And Uzzah had touched that which God had commanded them not to touch.

When we rest on good intentions more than obedience, we take God for granted and make ourselves the authority. When we rely more on our good intentions than our obedience, we will be sorely disappointed in the outcome.

Remember…good intentions do not make up for disobedience!

2 Kings 24-25 – You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

“You can run, but you can’t hide!” This statement refers to the idea that eventually justice will be served and payment will be required for wrongs done.

We’re taught this, but we act as if it’s not true. There’s something that tempts us to do what we want now and act as if there will be no consequences in the future. Then, when the consequences finally come, we are left with sorrowful regrets and “if only’s.”

This is the flavor of the final two chapters of 2 Kings. After His people repeatedly disregard His warnings and do what they wanted to do, God can no longer patiently and mercifully hold back the consequences of their actions. Those consequences finally catch up with them. And it’s heartbreaking.

  • The temple is ransacked and looted.
  • All but the poor are taken prisoner and deported.
  • The king runs in fear but is captured and forced to watch his sons be killed.
  • Then, the king’s eyes are gouged out and he is carried away as a prisoner.

The book of 2 Kings ends in dismal despair and hopelessness.

But, what’s the point?! Why end a book this way?

Here’s the point. God’s people wrongly assume their relationship with Him will lead Him to overlook their disobedience and rebellion. They think His love will lessen His discipline. But it doesn’t. God’s love may postpone His discipline, but it doesn’t prevent His discipline. (Hebrews 12:6)

Numbers 32:23 says that we can be sure our sin will find us and reveal us. Galatians 6:7 says that we can’t ignore God and get away with it.

So when you choose your present actions, keep the long-term consequences in mind. Be faithful in the present so you won’t have to be fearful in the future. Because…we can run, but we can’t hide.

2 Kings 21 – “That’s Enough!”

When you were young, did you ever push your parent’s so far that they finally said these words…”That’s enough!” If you ever heard those words from your parents, you knew you had pushed them too far. Their patience had reached its limit. In fact, you had taken it a click or two past the limit. Now there would be consequences that would be unavoidable and non-negotiable.

Welcome to 2 Kings chapter 21. That is exactly what’s happening in this chapter. Hezekiah had been a good king over Judah. He trusted the Lord, was faithful to the Lord in everything he did and was described as a good king of whom there would never be another like him. (2 Kings 18:3-7)

But his son Manasseh was just the opposite. Manasseh ranked right up there with Ahab (the king of Israel) as being one of the worst kings ever. Not only did Manasseh worship pagan deities, he…

Manasseh was more wicked than the kings whom God drove out of the land before him. (2 Kings 21:11) And God said, “That’s enough!” (2 Kings 21:12-15)

In light of all the God has done for us as individuals, as families, and as a nation…it makes you wonder just how close are we to hearing God say, “That’s enough!”

1 Kings 14 – What a Waste!

It happens. You open up your news feed or turn on the news, and you hear about someone with a lot of promise and with everything going for them who threw it all away on bad choices and wrong living. It’s not only sad, it’s mystifying. All you can do is shake your head and think, “What a waste!”

This is the feeling you get from 1 Kings chapter 14. Both Jeroboam and Rehoboam had been given great opportunities. God had given each of them a kingdom and a promise to meet their needs and desires if they would simply follow and obey Him. Yet, they took God’s goodness toward them as a sign they were invincible and they did whatever they wanted.

We can read 1 Kings chapter 14 and say, “What a waste,” but aren’t we prone to demonstrate the same type of behavior?

When things are going well, we tend to let down our guard and become less disciplined and vigilant. We do more of what we want to do and less of what we need to do, acting as if God’s blessings are going to just keep coming…even though our actions are less and less worthy of blessing.

We must remember that every blessing we experience is a gift from God. (James 1:17) We need to realize that we have been bought with the great price of Christ’s life. We should honor and obey God out of gratitude, rather than honor ourselves by doing whatever we want. (1 Cor. 6:20)

Don’t take for granted the blessings of God and your need to gratefully obey His directions. Don’t live your life in such a way that someone might someday look at your life and say, “What a waste!”

1 Samuel 31 – A Long Slow Death

Have you ever watched a movie that ended abruptly, without a resolution? You’re waiting for things to turn around, but it never happens. It just ends with a heavy “thud.”

The book of 1 Samuel ends this way.

The final chapter ends the book (and the life of Saul) with a heartbreaking “thud.” You find yourself thinking back over Saul’s life and asking, “How did things come to this?”

Though 1 Samuel chapter 31 tells us when Saul came to his end, the entire book tells us how Saul got to that point. He got there gradually…little by little. He got there by…

  • Focusing on the quick way rather than the right way.
  • Worrying more about his image than his integrity.
  • Being motivated more by fear than by faith.
  • Serving himself more than serving God or others.
  • Being impulsive rather than being disciplined.

Saul was dying throughout the entire book…little by little. Chapter 31 is just the conclusion of a long, slow death.

Maybe you’ve asked the question, “How did things get to this point?” about your own life.

The record of Saul’s life is a warning to us. If we respond to things as Saul did, we too will be dying a slow, lingering death. We may live a long life, but spiritually we will die a slow death. Remember the words of Jesus…

“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35 NLT)

1 Samuel 5-6 – When God Parents Teens

Parent is a difficult job, no matter the age of your children. But it is especially difficult to parent teens. Teens strongly demonstrate and exercise their self-will. They are also very good at diverting blame and misrepresenting loving discipline as punitive retribution.

1 Samuel chapters 5-6 portray the Israelites much like teenagers. In chapter 4, the Israelites independently do what they want to do, without consulting God. Because of this (and previous offenses,) they bring about a disconnect in the relationship…symbolized by their separation from the Ark of the Covenant.

As a good parent, God works behind the scenes (unbeknownst to them) to reconnect the relationship and return the Ark. Like teenagers, the Israelites are happy to receive the blessing of the Ark’s return, but they continue to do what they want to do. They continue to treat God with casual disrespect. And when God disciplines them for this attitude, the Israelites respond as if God is to blame (1 Sam. 7:2)

Too often, I respond to my Heavenly father as if I’m a teenager. I want what I want, when I want it. I’m glad to receive His benefits, but hurt when He disciplines me. And I’m usually more concerned with Him not leaving me, then with me not leaving Him.

I tend not to recognize:

  • All He did behind the scenes to restore our relationship.
  • The fact that He, more often than not, is the one who makes the first move to restore the relationship.

Yes, 1 Samuel chapters 5-6 make theological statements about the omnipresence of God in a pagan culture. And yes, you see teachings about God’s sovereignty and holiness. But mostly you see a God who goes out of His way to move towards His children…even when they have rebelled and disconnected from Him.

Be grateful God has a heart for teenagers…like us!