Rightful Worship, Thankful Living

And they brought in the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. And when David had finished… he blessed the people in the name of the Lord and distributed to all Israel, both men and women, to each a loaf of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel. Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the Lord by Asaph and his brothers.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered. Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him!Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’ Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 

“So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the Lord to minister regularly before the ark as each day required. And he left Zadok the priest and his brothers the priests… to offer burnt offerings to the Lord on the altar of burnt offering regularly morning and evening, to do all that is written in the Law of the Lord that he commanded Israel. With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever. Then all the people departed each to his house, and David went home to bless his household.” 1 Chronicles 16:1-12,23-34,37,39-41,43

When David brought the ark of God to its rightful place, worship was ‘set aright’ in his heart and living. Acknowledging God’s sovereign lordship and generosity to His people, David directed generous offerings to God first, then gifts to the people, then unified, joyful, meaningful praise. He set in place an orderly, God-directed rhythm for daily worship and thanksgiving that would identify and enrich his people. The outflow of a worshiping life brings honor and hearty praise to God, glad rejoicing in our hearts, and lavish blessing to others.

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What takes first place in my life, in each day? When it is my agenda, meeting my wants and needs, my focal point becomes me, and living is limited–maybe productive, but finite in scope, gratitude, and influence. When first I seek God on high, and offer Him sacrifices of praise and my body- my mind, lips, hands, feet- my focal point is Him, His higher ways, His kingdom, and the fruit of my efforts is lasting, bringing glory to Him, a thankful heart, and lavish living toward others. (Romans 12:1; Matthew 6:33)

Lord, daily expand my heart and exalt Yourself in my vision and living. Set Your rhythm of praise and sacrifice in all my moments, and keep me rejoicing and living lavishly toward others.

Joyful Re-Do

“David prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the Lord had chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister to him forever. And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place. And David gathered together the sons of Aaron and the Levites… [He] summoned the priests, and the Levites, and said to them, ‘You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it.  Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.’ So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel.  And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LordDavid also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy… So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom with rejoicing.  And because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams.” 1 Chronicles 15:1-4,11-16,25-26

This scene of preparation and the procession of the ark being carried into Jerusalem is a joyful one; but it was not always so. Three months prior, described in 2 Samuel 6:5-11, David led the first failed attempt to transport the ark, with his own choice of people in glad– but foolish– spontaneity. After God struck down Uzzah because of his error, David was angry and refused to continue, leaving the ark at the house of Obed-Edom. But God did a work in David’s heart over the following three months, a re-do of attitude and conviction. Restored in spirit and to right thinking, David carefully, and exuberantly, led the ark ‘home.’

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Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified… in your judgment. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings.” Psalm 51:4,10,12,17,19

What needs a re-do in my heart, my thinking, my proclivities? Where am I stubbornly holding on to my wants and driving my agenda, giving in to impulsive inclinations and chafing at consequences or getting angry at rebuke?

Lord, expose the error of my ways, and set me aright. Show me the way to go, and develop in me a consistent will to follow Your lead, not mine. In You and Your paths are fullness of joy. (Psalm 143:10; 16:11)

A Time and a Time

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I was mesmerized by the afternoon western sky, sun obviously blazing as it hid behind thick clots of clouds, rays streaming out in stiff white angles to the right and left, resplendent. But coming down from the center, straight into the ocean, were grey rays in a curtain of rain in the same stiff lines.

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Isn’t this a picture of the ordinary afternoons of our lives? Sometimes they are warm with joy and light- a sweet text from a friend, a confirmed business agreement, a meaningful and edifying conversation, a hard task completed to satisfaction. And sometimes it rains. It rains shivery and cold, or lonely, sad, oppressive, or stop-and-ponder-what-you-really-need-to-be-doing rain. But in either time, whatever the weather, the Sun of Righteousness reigns and is radiating His light, whether we see it or feel its warmth and comfort or not. Just as we know the sun is always shining, we know this is true of our God. (Malachi 4:2)

Lord of creation, keep my heart fixed on You, not the sun or rain You send in my circumstances. Keep me steady no matter what comes, trusting that all that emanates from Your loving hands is a gift to savor for this season.

 

Laying Aside Weight

Cast your burden on the Lordand he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Psalm 55:22; Hebrews 12:1-2

As I walked to the beach with two precious children, laden with baskets of shovels and sand toys, one remarked after two blocks, “This is getting so heavy!” Isn’t it true that a burden, not added to at all, increases in heaviness the longer we carry it? This is like our sin habits, our long-held grievances against others, our bitterness, complaining attitude, negative outlook, secretly-nurtured worldliness or selfish indulgences. The longer we bear them, the more they weigh us down, making slow our progress, heavy our steps of faith, damp our joy, dim our outlook. Often what we were just ‘carrying,’ thinking it a necessity or a right, becomes a true and miserable burden.

Oh, Christian, cast your burden on Him Who bore the full load of our sin on the cross! Be unencumbered and free! His way is good and His load is light! (1 Peter 2:24; Matthew 11:28,30)

Lord, thank You for bearing the weight of my sin that I need not carry it or be entangled by it. Keep me kicking it off, laying aside all that would hinder me from staying focused on You, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and following You wholeheartedly. Because of You I can run with endurance the race You have for me.

After the Locusts, What God Can Do

“‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lordreturn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster… ‘The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.'” Joel 2:12-13,24-25

Merciful relenting, anger that is slow but abounds in unshakeable love, abundance and restoration– these seem confusing promises and absolute impossibilities to us when the locusts have eaten away everything, when we see the devastation of wildfires, the ruin of a marriage, brokenness of families and friendships and ravaged bodies. But though we cannot understand how, or know when, these are what God is able to do, and does.

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“‘You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.'” (Joel 2:26,27) In God’s providence, in His eternal plan and economy, this restoration is brought about not that we fall back on comfort and plenty for our own sake, or depend on physical rehabilitation or replacement or a new start, but that we may recognize the Redeemer, know the Giver, and praise Him. He restores right desires, He redeems passions of the heart and flesh, He redirects life aims, He heals the wounded and ailing, He rebuilds what we have willingly or unknowingly ruined in relationships. We may never know the joy of full restoration in this life, yet we can know it is certain and is accomplished in His eternal scheme. We can take comfort. What a mighty Redeemer is He!

Great Restorer, You take notice of the ruin in our lives, and are able to repair the breaches and bring back to glad fruitfulness. Though flesh and heart may fail, You are the strength of our hearts and portion forever. Return all of me to You, and give me eyes to see in faith how beautifully and supernaturally You rebuild, in the now and for eternity, for Your grand purposes and glory. (Ruth 4:15; Isaiah 58:12; Psalm 73:26)

God’s Pleasure

He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people.” Psalm 147:4-5,8-11; 149:4

Do we not marvel that in all creation, and the magnificent creatures God Almighty has made, His pleasure is in those He knows, who know Him? I delight in the strength of the horse–its sinewy muscles and regal countenance. I delight in the twinkling stars and crescent moon in the dark sky, in His majesty I see in grass on hills, the pristine snow, a waterfall, the expansiveness of wide beach and sea, and I believe He gives us that delight because in these beauties we see His creative power and eternal love. But we, His people, are the crown of His creation, and His pleasure is us! Wondrous thought! All else He made for us, yet He made us for Himself.

Lord, may I delight this day that You delight in me. In all I see and experience- senses to enjoy wind chimes in the cool fall breeze, the flip-flop of the heart in a grandchild’s new-tooth smile, the sweetness of blueberries- let me see Your lovingkindness and praise You for coming after me. You have made me for Yourself, called me by name, and I am precious in Your eyes. May I delight in You as You delight in me. (Isaiah 43:1-2,4-7)

O, To Be a Gabriel!

“While [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.’

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. For nothing will be impossible with God.’” Luke 1:8-9,11-14;26-33,37

While I often read this account and marvel at how these women, one old and barren and the other a virgin, felt upon receiving Gabriel and his life-altering news that they would bear children, this morning I ponder Gabriel. What a privilege to be God’s messenger, to be assigned to speak for Him directly to those God indicated, with truth that brought great (if not shocking) joy! Not only is Luke’s account inspired, but Gabriel’s very words were God-breathed promises to these unsuspecting women.

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We know we are created human and not angels, but God has given us the glad task of announcing His good news that changes lives, of telling others not to be afraid, new life is available, nothing is impossible with Him, all He promises will come to pass. How eagerly do I deliver His word? (Hebrews 1:7,14; Romans 10:14-15; Proverbs 30:5)

Father, Author of all good news, connect me so closely to You that I know Your word and readily, with bold joy and without delay, announce it to those You appoint for me. Make me a Gabriel, a minister to others, serving at Your bidding.