Reading Listening through the NLT Chronological Bible becomes quite interesting when the reader gets to David’s life because the reading begins to switch back and forth between 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles.  This occasionally brings up some interesting textual problems.  For instance in 2 Samuel when David decides to take a census, the text reads:

Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him. (2 Samuel 24:1, NLT)

In 1 Chronicles, recounting the same census, the text reads:

Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel.” (1 Chronicles 21:1, NLT)

Well!  That seems to be a bit of a problem, doesn’t it? I won’t take the time to answer the question, but I will pass off this hot tip [which I learned listening to my son preach], go to the website gotquestions.org and there is generally a pretty good article to answer any biblical question you might come across, as there is in regards to who incited David’s census.

The other thing that I noticed as I listened through David’s life was what a great change there was after he had Uriah killed in battle to cover up his affair with Bathsheba.  His punishment for that sin was that the child he fathered with Bathsheba died, but it seems like God raised up one difficulty after another in the aftermath of Uriah’s death:

  • Tamar, David’s daughter is raped
  • Absalom, brother of Tamar, rebels against David and almost succeeds
  • Absalom dies during the revolt
  • Sheba, a Benjamite, King Saul’s clan, revolts immediately after Absalom’s revolt is squelched
  • David takes a census – this is a very bad idea and many people in Israel pay the price for what David did. The effects of sin go far beyond just the one who sins.
  • Adonijah, one of David’s sons, claims the throne and he almost succeeds

These constant difficulties came as a result of Nathan’s prophecy in the aftermath of the death of Uriah.  He tells David:

From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.” (2 Samuel 12:10, NLT)

So prophesied. So done.  The mills of God grind slowly, but exceeding fine.

 

Advertisements

I’m in day 15 of my 90 day journey through the NLT Chronological Bible encouraged by the challenge at Knowable Word. This day was all about Samuel, the last and greatest judge of Israel and Saul, the first king of Israel.

One thing that struck me as I read listened through these sections of (mostly) 1 Samuel was how God moves very slowly, but he does what he says.  In what appears to be a chronologically early point in Saul’s reign, he is commanded by Samuel to wait for him at Gilgal, so they can offer sacrifices to Yahweh.  Saul waits for seven days, but then gets impatient because his men are deserting.  He offers the sacrifice himself, which is directly contrary to God’s law.  Samuel’s response is frank:

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:13–14, NLT)

Here’s the thing. Saul doesn’t lose the kingdom until many years later.  The lesson here–and it is a lesson we see all throughout history–is that the mills of God grind slowly, but exceeding fine.  When Saul is killed, he is killed along with his three sons, in battle against the Philistines, and his dynasty comes to an end.  For Saul his dynasty was “one and done” because of his disobedience.

The other cool thing is that we are beginning to see Psalms fitted in chronologically where they belong.  For instance, Saul orders his men to watch David’s house in order to capture him so he can be executed (Saul knows that David is God’s anointed).  After this passage, we hear Psalm 59, which is entitled: A psalm of David, regarding the time Saul sent soldiers to watch David’s house in order to kill him. It reads in part:

But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. (Psalm 59:16, NLT)

Hearing this in the context of the time when it happened gives fresh meaning and urgency to these words of trust.

I’m in (most) of the book of Judges as I read listen through the Bible in 90 days.  Judges is a fascinating book because a. it is the story of failure after failure on the part of Israel; and b. it is also the story of deliverance after deliverance from God.  The failures get worse as the book goes along until at the end of Judges we find a people who seem to have little knowledge at all of Yahweh!

[Side note: Books like Judges give strong support to prove that the Bible is God-breathed.  If you were writing a book about the history of your people, would you include all the parts where they looked terrible? Neither would I.]

What we discover in the book of Judges is that the judges who God raises up to deliver his people are all flawed.  Gideon saves Israel from the Midianites, then fashions an image that becomes an idol and leads the people astray.  Abimelech kills his 70 half-brothers and seems to spend more time attacking his home city than “judging” Israel.  Jepthah makes a rash vow and ends up sacrificing his own daughter, and Samson allows the strength that God gave him to deliver Israel to lead him into sin.

Israel needs a judge who will deliver them and is not flawed, and so we find that the book points us forward to the time when a judge of Israel will arise who is perfect and perfectly obedient and that judge will be able to save Israel permanently.  When he comes, the Jews will expect him to free them from the clutches of Roman occupation, when what Jesus the Messiah will really do is free them from their own sins.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13–14, NLT)

Jesus is the perfect judge who will not fail us.

Today as I listened through my NLT Chronological Bible passage (Numbers), I was struck by two great failures of the generation of the Exodus [which we might call “the not greatest generation”]. First, when things got difficult in the wilderness they begin to complain and wanted to return to life in Egypt because things were better there.  This episode reminds me of this song from Keith Green:

The second great failure was the people’s refusal to enter into the Promised Land despite the fact that Yahweh had commanded them to do so.  Ten of the twelve scouts say that the land is fertile and rich, but the people are strong, the task is impossible.  The people agree.  They refuse to enter, despite the pleas of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb.

This is a painful episode to read, because the narrative and the words of the Lord are so strong.  Indeed, reading Hebrews 4, in light of this refusal to obey demonstrates how serious this episode was in Israel’s history.  It becomes THE QUINTESSENTIAL EXAMPLE of disobedience and refusal to enter the rest Yahweh had provided for them. Some of the words of Yahweh here: “You will all drop dead in this wilderness” and “suffering the consequences of your sin.” Perhaps the saddest passage in all of the Scriptures is the Lord’s command when the people refuse to obey him:

“Now turn around, and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.*” “[Num 14.25, NLT]

Thus begins the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  Not one person from this generation will enter the Promised Land with the exceptions of Joshua and Caleb, the faithful scouts.  So Yahweh had spoken, so it came to pass.

If there is a stronger passage in the Scriptures concerning the consequences of disobedience, I cannot think of one.  I am left dumbfounded after listening to this passage.  Would I have been Joshua and/or Caleb in this episode, or would I have been one of the majority who thought the task was too big and the dangers to real?  The consequences of disobedience are very, very real.

I’m into (and finishing) the book of Joshua this morning as I make my way through the NLT Chronological Bible in 90 days (or less 😏).  As I listened to the second half of Joshua, I began to wonder why the obsession with land.  I mean, almost the entire second half of Joshua is nothing but a description of the different territories given to the tribes of Israel.  It honestly makes for some boring reading, because we are unfamiliar with the territory of Israel, and even if we were familiar with it, it’s been 3000+ years since this passage was written so most of the towns and villages are lost to history anyway.

The writers of the Scriptures were, first and foremost, writing to the audience in their own day, so we must find their motivations there.  I believe that what we discover in the second half of Joshua (and elsewhere) is how important land was to God’s covenant.  God first gave the land to Abraham, but the Hebrew nation had been out of the land for 430 years, in exile in Egypt.  Would they receive the land back?  Was it still their land?  Were God’s promises to them still true?

The book of Joshua is a big affirmative to all of the above questions.  It was the story of God fulfilling his promise to Abraham again.  This is why land was so important.  It represented the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people.  So important was the connection of the Promised Land to God’s covenant with his people, that one of the themes of the book of Esther–which we will see later–is exploring the question, “are we still God’s people, even though we do not occupy the Promised Land?” (Answer from Esther: Yes!)

Joshua’s final plea to the people demonstrates how close the connection was between Yahweh, Yahweh’s covenant with his people, and the Promised Land:

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14–15, NLT)

 

I’m through Deuteronomy and halfway into Joshua (with some side stops in 1 Chronicles and Psalms) as I make my way through the NLT Chronological Bible in 90 days.  What struck me today was the sadness of Moses’ death. It reads like this:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. (Deuteronomy 34:4–5, NLT)

Hearing this section read (I’m using the audible version) there is a deep and profound sadness in this passage.  Moses was the one chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery.  He had witnessed the great deliverance at the Red Sea; he had been instrumental in delivering water to the thirsty people; he had experienced manna for 40 years, but…

He did not obey God’s command at Kadesh to speak to the rock in order to bring water for the people.  God does not play favorites.  He did not go easy on Moses because of his disobedience.  He allowed him to get all the way to the border of the Promised Land, and then Moses died, short of his great goal.

The Scriptures honor Moses, and we should also.  He was a flawed leader with an all too human tendency to sin and failure, just like us.  Moses points forward to a leader in Israel who obeys ALL of God’s commands, who is perfectly obedient.  He points us forward to Jesus.

The strange case of Balaam takes up three full chapters of the book of Numbers, so it be important.  Here are the facts of Balaam’s life:

  • He is a well known diviner, so Balak, king of Moab offers him cash to come curse Israel
  • Balaam, at the direction of God, refuses to do this. [The text used the name God here, and not Yahweh, the covenant name of God, Balaam is not a God-worshipper]
  • Balak REALLY needs Balaam to curse Israel, so he offers him even more cash, God allows Balaam to go,but warns him to only speak what God tells him to say.
  • Balaam gets into a heated argument with his donkey who has been protecting him from the angel of the Lord, unbeknownst to Balaam.
  • Instead of cursing Israel, Balaam blesses them four different times!, including a prophecy of Messiah. Balak is not happy.
  • Balaam returns home.
  • Later, it’s apparently Balaam who recommends that Moab attack Israel by getting some of the Moabite women to sleep with the Israelite men. (Num 31.16)
  • In the great battle between Israel and Moab, Balaam is killed.
  • The New Testament refers to Balaam as a man who “loved the wages of unrighteousness.”
  • Archaeology has discovered an inscription in the country of Jordan which refers to Balaam.

What do we learn from Balaam’s life?

  1. Balaam had interaction with the “gods” because he was a diviner.  When he hears from the God of Israel, we assume that this is just another “god” to Balaam.  How wrong Balaam was.  Unbeknownst to him, he has had an encounter with the one true God.  This does not change his life.
  2. Baalam is led astray by his desire for money.  God uses Balaam to accomplish his purpose, but this does not change Balaam’s heart.
  3. Baalam concocts a plan to defeat Israel by other means.  This is actually partially successful before it is unsuccessful.  Balaam pays for these actions with his life.
  4. There is a difference between so-called “gods,” and Yahweh, God of Israel.  Balaam did not understand the difference, we should understand the difference because it makes all the difference.
  5. God is more important than money.