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April 19th, 2010

DAILY BIBLE READING

Apr 19: 1Sam 28-31; Ps18
Apr 20:
Ps 121/123-125/128-130
Apr 21:
2Sam 1-4
Apr 22:
Ps 6/8-10/14/16/19/21
Apr 23:
1Chron 1-2
Apr 24:
Ps 43-45/49/84-85/87
Apr 25:
1Chron 3-5
Apr 26:
Ps 73/77-78

NOTES ON THIS WEEK’S READINGS

·         More so than any other week so far, the “chronological readings” this week skip all around.  One hint I found helpful was to read these texts online.  By clicking the links above, you can find all of that day’s texts together.

·         There are four books of the Bible on your reading list this week – the end of 1 Samuel and the beginnings of 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, plus some more Psalms.  Why?

·         Our historical readings complete the life of Saul and begin the transition to the rule of David.  This takes place during the late 11th century B.C. (shortly before 1000 B.C.).

·         1 Samuel was probably written mostly by Samuel, but 2 Samuel takes place after his death so someone else must have written that book.  Nevertheless, since the books make no reference to the divided kingdom (which began under David’s grandson), the books of Samuel were probably compiled early in the tenth century B.C.  1 & 2 Samuel tell of the simultaneous decline of Eli and rise of Samuel, then the simultaneous decline of Saul and rise of David.

·         About more 500 years passed before the priests decided a retelling of the story of David was in order.  The divided kingdom had been followed by dispersion and exile of God’s people, then captivity, then a partial return to rebuild the temple and wall.  During that period of re-establishing their spiritual identity, the priests rewrote Israel’s history.  1 & 2 Chronicles add a lot of genealogical material to the story, omit the story of Saul almost entirely, and focus on David’s rule.

·         When there’s an overlap in these two histories, our “chronological” approach will weave back and forth.  That includes the psalms that either were explicitly written during this time or seem to fit the themes of this era.

·         Look for the providence of God at work among his people, and for the psalmists to interpret their times with great trust in God’s control.

 

DEVOTIONS

Several years ago, “The Prayer of Jabez” was a popular book by a well-known Christian author.  With all due respect to the author, I was not a big fan.

I commend Bruce Wilkinson for “finding” this passage, buried deep in a part of the bible most of us skim so fast we miss anything significant.  The first few chapters of 1 Chronicles include one long list of names after another, most of whom seem very irrelevant to us.

But once in a while a story is connected to a name in Chronicles, and that’s how it is with Jabez.  The story begins sad, but has a happy ending.  The name “Jabez” means “pain,” and this poor guy has to live out his life not only with pain, but with the name “Pain” – apparently because his mother had a painful delivery.  Talk about your classic reasons for low self-esteem – if not despair.

But he prays – he prays for God’s blessing, for material prosperity, and for protection from harm and relief from pain.  And God answers his prayer.

I like that story.  I don’t like what Bruce Wilkinson did with it in his book, “The Prayer of Jabez.”  Wilkinson treats this as a model prayer, and suggests (using his own story of personal prosperity and rise to fame as a reinforcement) that God delights in “selfish prayers.”  The implication is that if we don’t have a life of material and physical blessing, it’s probably because we haven’t asked, or haven’t asked well.

If that’s not the point of Jabez’ story, what is?

The point of this prayer is that God does care about people with a painful past.  And that the names we’re called and the experiences we have had need not limit our future possibilities.  God can turn all of that pain into blessing.  It may not be material blessing or physical healing, but God wants us to trust him with our lives and call out to him in desperation.

Why God chooses sometimes to remove pain and not others is unknown to us and not something we should try to figure out.  We have to be careful adding to our pain – or that of others – by heaping guilt (for praying wrong or not enough) on top of the pain we already have.  To do so is Bible abuse.

But to declare and believe that God can bring beauty from emotional ashes, that’s my kind of faith.

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