Wednesday, October 30

1 Kings 12:17-19

King Rehoboam’s story includes drama, personal agendas, warring factions, and political power plays. In some ways, the story echoes what we see in our world today. In the midst of all of the stress and mess, we may overlook the essential missing character in this story and our own.

The Israelites come to consult with their new king, who goes to consult with his older advisors, then with his young friends. So many people in this story are having so many conversations, while one entity is left unaddressed and unconsidered.

Did you notice God’s absence? 

Often times we don’t, whether the story is someone else’s or our own. We busily take matters into our own hands and don’t have time to bother with things like prayer or practicing patience. We cease to believe in God’s providence at work, and effectively declare God irrelevant.

When songwriter Michael W. Smith describes the work of providence, he sings, “Apportioning the power/Weighing all that it entails/Giving us the fulcrum/And a balance to the scales.”

When we pause, when we choose to step away and be still, we are able to find our balance and the fulcrum to change. We finally see the essential character we often miss who stands in our midst, offering to lead, guide, and help us on the way.

Consider 

What steps could you take to better seek and sense God’s work in the world?

Pray

God, open my eyes that I might see the work of your providence in my life, that I might become a partner in your work in the world. Amen.

Tuesday, October 29

1 Kings 12:12-16

Sometimes, it isn’t what we say, but how we say it. People learn as much from our tone and tenor as from our words. When we speak and listen attentively and thoughtfully, we show concern, love, and support. Our words can be healing, but they can also be hurtful. The difference is often in the way they are spoken. Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, “Some things are true when whispered, but become false when shouted.” 

Communication starts with listening. So the king did not listen to the people (v. 15). Rehoboam’s first sin is not his tone or tenor, but his failure to respectfully consider what the people have to say.

The people wait patiently for three days, but the king arrives with harsh words. His tenor and demeanor shout, “I don’t care about you or your needs.” Rehoboam exhibits arrogance, and shows no empathy in his interaction with the Israelites. 

Why do the people turn on Rehoboam? When all Israel saw that the king would not listen to them…[they] went away to their tents (v. 16) At the heart of this story is not only a political failure of leadership, but also a personal failure of communication.

We would be wise to learn from Rehoboam’s mistake by listening closely and empathetically, then speaking gently and intentionally. “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (Jas 1:19). Think about your words and how you speak them, because one cutting word spoken in anger can hurt. We’d rather use a single compassionate word spoken in love to bring healing.

Consider

What would life look like if you committed to listening to others with interest before speaking to them with kindness?

Pray

God, may I have the humility to listen, then the wisdom to speak healing words. Amen.

Monday, October 28

1 Kings 12:6-11

Our world is loud. Voices advocate for agendas on the news channels. Flashing headlines infect our smartphones. Social media bombards us with advice about anything and everything. People ask questions, then let the “crowds” (friends, family, strangers, anyone online) provide answers. We have more instant access to data than at any other time in human history, yet we still struggle to process information and discern the truth.

Rehoboam seeks wise counsel, asking the experienced, the older and wiser for input as he prepares to make a significant decision. With one voice, these advisors say, be a servant to this people…speak good words to them…then they will be your servants forever (v. 7). Rehoboam disregards their advice and consults his peers, who are younger and unproven. They make inappropriate jokes and advocate for a policy of greater oppression and violence.

Rehoboam faces the choice we all face each day. Who will we listen to? Where will we seek wisdom and find wise counsel? How do we find truth in a world filled with falsehood? 

Overlooking wisdom and embracing folly, Rehoboam proves his own ignorance and demonstrates his inability to function as an able leader. His lack of discernment leads to a decision that seals his fate and leads to his failure. 

Hundreds of voices tell us what to say and do, what to believe and buy, what we need and what we want. What are we to do? The Apostle Paul wrote, “test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21, NLT). Sage advice is worth following. 

Consider

How can you process the vast supply of information you receive through a filter of faith, seeking truth and holding to what is good?

Pray

God, in a world filled with so many thoughtless words, help me seek truth and discern wisdom so that I may walk in your way and follow your will. Amen.

Sunday, October 27

1 Kings 12:1-5

Change is rarely easy for individuals, communities, or countries. At the crossroads of what was and what will be, we struggle to see through the fog of an uncertain future and decipher the road ahead. Transitions are full of stress and questions.

Israel stands at the crossroads. “Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. Then he rested with his ancestors and was buried” (1 Kings 11:42-43, New International Version). The people, seeking a new leader, return to Shechem, the first meeting place of the tribal confederacy. When Israel first entered the land, Joshua convenes them there to hear the Mosaic covenant read and renew their vows to God (Josh 24). Facing an uncertain future after their monarch’s death, the people find comfort in returning to a familiar place.

As Solomon’s son Rehoboam prepares to assume the throne, the people make a request: Your father made our yoke heavy….lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke that he placed on us, and we will serve you (v. 4). The people ask for mercy in return for their service. Uncertain how to answer, Rehoboam tells them to go away for three days (v. 5). They come looking for leadership, but leave in limbo.

Years later, another king arises from the house of David. He meets people in seasons of change, as they struggle with what was and what will be. Before the people even ask for compassion, he offers his answer: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”
(Mt 11:28, 30).

Life is a series of transitions. When change is the only constant, anxiety and worry prevail. But even before we ask, God extends mercy and pledges to bear our burdens with us. This promise does not remove all problems, but it gives us strength to persevere in every season.

Consider

In seasons of change, what helps you trust God to bear your burdens?

Pray

God, in every season, help me trust in you and rely on your mercy. Amen.

Saturday, October 26

Mark 11:8-10 

Everyone longs for the time when life is what it ought to be. We hunger for our communities to be made right and whole. When people talk about what the good life looks like, we hold up leaders we admire or time periods we consider to be the golden days. 

In the first century, King David influenced Israel’s hope and identity. The people’s collective memory of David, which includes stories of his calling, his expressed love for God, and his military successes, profoundly shaped their expectations for the promised Messiah.

So as Jesus enters Jerusalem, those who line the roadside use the hopeful language of their religious tradition to welcome him. They have heard many speculate, “Is this Jesus the one we’ve been waiting for?” (Mt 11:3). In response they shout, Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David (v. 10). Hope abounds that the new kingdom they have waited for is finally beginning. 

Jesus uses “kingdom” language often, referring to the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. When Christians read these terms, many immediately think about life after death. Some assume that the kingdom of God won’t arrive until the justice, peace, and righteousness for which we work and pray, the “Peaceable kingdom,” has been achieved. But Jesus says that not only is God’s kingdom not far from us, it is within us. According to Christ, the kingdom is present now. 

This kingdom has already begun, even though we still long for things to be as they ought to be. In Christ we have access to another realm of life right now, another kingdom already with us and within us. Christ comes to illuminate his kingdom in which we already live. Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! (v. 9).

Consider

When do you experience kingdom moments, when your sense of God’s presence is larger than the challenges and limitations of daily life?

Pray

God, help us experience the eternal life you invite us to live now. When petty matters keep us from your larger truth, expand our hearts and vision. Amen.

Friday, October 25

Psalm 89:19-37 

Our texts for this week, with the exception of Psalm 150, highlight the Davidic kingdom and its importance in Israel’s story. Though full of drama, missteps, and sadness, the Davidic kingdom becomes like Camelot to God’s people. They look back wistfully, not simply pining for those good ole days, but also seeing them as God’s promise for their destiny. They see David’s kingdom as the way things ought to be. When we read all of Psalm 89, written during the exile, this becomes clear.

In this worship hymn, the psalmist forthrightly reminds the Almighty of God’s promise to David. They had a covenant, a “holy deal” assuring the people that David’s kingdom would survive and prosper. Even if the king’s sons mess things up and must be punished, God will not withdraw God’s love. Imagine an entire congregation reminding God of this promise in unison. Then picture a cantor moving to the podium to solemnly read today’s verses and conclude, “You’ve rejected us and renounced your covenant. Where is your former love that you swore to David?” (see vv. 38, 49).

This hymn is one of many in the Psalms that remind us that lament has a place in our worship, as it did in ancient, exiled Israel. When churches make no room for this sort of expression in our corporate worship, many leave our pews and wonder why everyone else seems to be living a different life than they are, one that only produces praise, thanksgiving, and joy.

Only about a third of the lament psalms are found in the various lectionaries, and they appear rarely. Take note that today’s reading ends in verse 37, before the worshipers let God have it. Everyone edits. 

Consider

How much do you edit your prayers to God? Why? What happens when you give yourself permission to express the kind of honesty and complaints that Psalm 89 expresses? What does it take for you to be that real with God? 

Pray

God, help me take my masks off when I pray. Teach me to pray honestly so that my relationship with you will be real. Amen.

Thursday, October 24

Psalm 150

Let everything that breathes praise the LORD (v. 6a). Why does the book of Psalms end there? Why does this liturgical book that remembers and reflects, confronts and heals, celebrates and laments the story of God’s people conclude with this line? 

The Psalter engages us in every prayerful way imaginable, so why are the last six poems psalms of praise? These are not petitions or preparations; they are not words of comfort or confession. The Psalms take us into every nook and cranny of our hearts, surveying every experience of our lives. But after doing all that, this worship book clearly guides us back to intentional praise.

In worship we deal with, pray about, preach on, and make many kinds of commitments, which is good. But the Psalter leads us back to praise because, in the end, worship is about God. The beautiful poetry of Psalm 150 makes that perfectly clear. 

Throughout the ages, many confessions of faith have proclaimed that glorifying God is the chief end and primary purpose of any human life. Some wonder if praise is something God needs, as if the Almighty is a megalomaniac. But God is not needy—we are. 

We are self-focused creatures, and our daily demands keep us in that state. We need the practice of turning again and again to God with thankful hearts. Praise returns us to a proper disposition about who we are and what our place is in the world. All creation manifests God’s being. Everything that has breath expresses the reality of God’s glory. Remembering that together on a Sunday helps us manifest our part on Monday. 

Consider

Why is praising God essential to your life? 

Pray

God, guide me to use my daily breath in praise of you. Amen.

Wednesday, October 23

2 Samuel 6:20-23

Yesterday we sought to understand Michal’s bitterness, noting that David took her from her marriage to serve his political purposes. She hates this king. We understand and despise with her the injustice and cultural oppression that led to her pain. We do not blame her for David’s sin and are sympathetic when she lashes out at him in today’s verses. But we hope that in some way Saul’s daughter knew more than bitterness for the rest of her life. Scripture, however, offers a subtle, disheartening postscript to her story: And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death (v. 23).

Contemplative teacher Richard Rohr often reminds us, “If we don’t transform our pain we will transmit it.” Everyone carries some of this fallen world’s pain and consequence. Some carry more than their fair share. All that is held and hidden hurts us; often it hurts those around us. All brokenness or sin has consequences in the world. It all ripples. It’s all transmitted until it’s transformed, healed. 

The central saving belief in the Christian faith is that God comes into the midst of life to redeem life. In Christ, God asserts that all things might be healed. This prominent teaching from first-century theologians was the way they first understood God’s incarnation and our salvation. Gregory of Nazianzus insisted, “The unsummed is the unredeemed.” In Christ, who came and lived and died in a vulnerable human body, God heals us and the world.

But we can’t ignore human agency. When injustice and evil cause our pain, when no forgiveness has been sought and no reconciliation attempted, it’s hard to consent to God’s healing. Bitterness appears to be Michal’s only option, but she deserves to dance too.

Consider

What is the relationship between healing and forgiveness? What does it take to transform the world’s pain? 

Pray

God who heals, teach us how to bring our pain to you so that you can make us strong in our brokenness. Amen.

Tuesday, October 22

2 Samuel 6:12-19

When David brings the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem, Michal, one of David’s wives, does not join the others for the parade. She watches from the window, despising David. “Well, that’s not very nice,” we first think. “She’s certainly not supporting her husband.” Then we discover her story. In 2 Samuel 3 David takes Michal, who is Saul’s daughter, from her husband Paltiel to solidify David’s hold on the throne. Paltiel follows her, weeping as he walks behind her, surrounded by the king’s entourage, until he is ordered to leave Michal and return home (3:16).

Using women in this political way was typical. We hurt with her and understand why she won’t take part in the significant festivities below her window. When David dances in his undergarments, she despised him in her heart (v. 16). His joy comes at the expense of her sorrow.

David, unaware of Michal’s anger, continues to share the love he feels, giving cake to each household that is present. Everyone is in on the party except Michal, who hates it all. 

We find this narrative’s dynamic and dilemma familiar. Something similar still plays out in communities when our stories unfold in all their complexity. Good things happen. Excellent celebrations take place that include many in the victory, the windfall, the benefits, and the joy. When the ark arrives, the whole town seems happy. But we must read the footnote, too, and hear of the suffering linked to this celebration. 

Life is complex, and there’s usually more to a narrative than first meets the eye. The disposition of someone’s heart has everything to do with their story. When we read the story, we need to take the time to see the full picture. Celebration is an essential part of life, and parades are important. But some aren’t able to take part and we need to realize why.

Consider

When have you realized that your joy came at the expense of another’s sorrow? Whose stories make you more compassionate and understanding of their response to life?

Pray

God, make me slow to judge and quick to care for anyone in the story. Amen.

Monday, October 21

2 Samuel 6:1-5 

Not only does David have good military instincts, his intuition covers politics and liturgy, too. He demonstrates this by deciding to transport the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is already known as the city of David, but he’s ready for it to also be known as the city of God. So David organizes the ark’s journey to be a cross between a military parade and a holy procession.

This time of celebration and fulfillment contrasts with the reality of Israel’s violent military conquests and ancient religious perception. The account is sandwiched between a story where God gives David intel on how to strike down the Philistines (5:25) and one in which God strikes dead an Israelite who steadies the ark when an oxen pulling the ark stumbled (6:7), which sours David’s enthusiasm considerably. 

But in between these hard, strange scenes, we find David, along with all the young men of Israel, marching and dancing behind the ark, celebrating with all their might (v. 5). 

In spite of all that surrounds it, this is a happy and joyful moment. And it’s a needed reminder that as we make the journeys God calls us to make, we must engage all parts of ourselves, all of who we are. We need these moments that involve our bodies and our souls. 

We need a harp in our hands. A joyfully resounding cymbal can be important to our spiritual well-being, especially when our faith has soured somewhat and we’re not sure what to do next. That’s a moment to reach for a castanet…or a garden hoe or a trusted recipe book or a yoga mat. We don’t often think our way back into well-being. We use all of who we are, especially the physical, sensual, material, and communal. Sing something. Join a parade. Dance like David. 

Consider

Identify the ways you intentionally celebrate. How have certain activities that may not be obviously spiritual helped restore and re-center you?

Pray

God, help us learn to love you with all of our might. Help us celebrate you with mind and heart, as well as body and soul. Amen.