Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Chosen (Deut 7:6-14)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2019

We elect officials to solve problems, but sometimes a solution comes from combining problems.
Bill was lamenting to Fred, "Everyone concentrates on the problems we're having in this country lately: illegal immigration, hurricane recovery, wild animals attacking humans in Florida. Not me. I concentrate on solutions to problems, and the result is a win-win situation:
  • Dig a moat the length of the Mexican border.
  • Use the dirt to raise the levies in New Orleans.
  • Put the Florida alligators in the moat.
We elect officials to solve problems. One official who is particularly good at solving problems is God. The problem He is facing after Israel's exodus from Egypt is how to integrate this newly formed people group into a large and diverse community of nations, especially when Israel is the only member state that recognizes Him as God. The solution He chooses is to make Israel the preferred recipient of His blessing and guidance.

Before Israel enters the Promised Land, Moses gives the people a pep talk, emphasizing their unusual relationship with the one who recently freed them from slavery in Egypt. God has chosen them to represent Him among the nations. How does the Lord make this selection? Why does Israel stand out among other people groups of the world? What are God's Unique Election Criteria?

I. God uniquely values His people, Israel (Deut 7:6).
Deut 7:6 You are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
Moses describes four ways in verse six that God ascribes worth to the Israelites. The first way God ascribes worth to them is that...
A. He sanctifies them beyond others: "You are holy" (v. 6).
Elsewhere, Moses tells how sinful the Canaanites are and warns the Israelites not to emulate them:
You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. (Lev 20:23)
The Israelites are to maintain a difference in their behavior that distinguishes them from these current residents of Canaan. The LORD expects the Israelites to maintain a certain degree of sanctity, and...
1. He uses Himself the exemplar of that state: "Be holy, because I am holy" (Lev 11:44,45; 19:21; 20:26).2
2. He uses Himself the facilitator of that state: "I am the LORD, who makes you holy" (Exod 31:13; Lev 20:7).
The second way God ascribes worth to the Israelites is that...
B. He distinguishes them from others: "You [belong] to the LORD." (v.6).
Although God made all peoples, only the Israelites have an exclusive relationship with Him. The LORD indicates their special status by what He and Moses say about it.
1. God confirms it saying, "You are my...people" (Exod 22:3 1; Deut 28:9). 
2. Moses affirms it saying, "You are a people [belonging] to the LORD your God (Deut 14:2, 21; 26:19; 28:9).

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Hiram (1 Kings 5:1-12)

Hiram—A family friend (1 Kings 5:1-12)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2019

People are often oblivious to matters they do not think should concern them, a tendency that others may notice.
Karl listened from the other room as his wife patiently said to their five-year-old daughter, "Please pick up your toys." After a few minutes, she again said, "Please pick up your toys." Finally, and with some exasperation in her voice, his wife asked, "Why aren't you picking up your things?" Karl rolled his eyes when he heard their daughter's answer, "I'm playing house and I'm the dad...so I don't know where anything goes."
People are often oblivious to matters they do not think should concern them. That is not so with Solomon who is very concerned with a matter he inherits from his father— the task of building a temple.

When Solomon succeeds David on the throne of Israel he has an ambitious construction agenda, the most grandiose item being to replace the portable and temporary tabernacle with a stationary and permanent temple. David cannot take on this project because his administration is too involved in foreign military ventures. By the time Solomon comes to power, however, the kingdom is at peace, and the new king can focus on domestic matters, including building projects he wants to complete, such as the temple. Solomon says,
Because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the Name of the LORD his God until the LORD put his enemies under his feet. But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God, as the LORD told my father David. (1 Kgs 5:3-5)
Solomon accomplishes this project with considerable help from one of David's Companions, Hiram—A family friend. Hiram helps David build a "palace" (2 Sam 5:11) and will now help Solomon build a temple.

David does not have many friends among his Ancient Near Eastern neighbors. Most consider him their enemy. The reason for this is, in part, the adversarial role God's commandments require:
When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city....put to the sword all the men in it.... This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. In the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them.... Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God. (Deut 20:10-18)
Tyre is north of Israel, outside the sphere of God's primary concern for pagan influence, and Hiram, the ruler of Tyre, is on good terms with his neighbor to the south. So, when the Israeli government changes with Solomon's ascension to the throne, Hiram sends the new administration his good wishes.

I. Hiram congratulates Solomon upon his coronation (1 Kings 5:1).
1 Kgs 5:1 When Hiram king of Tyre heard that Solomon had been anointed king to succeed his father David, he sent his envoys to Solomon, because he had always been on friendly terms with David.
It is customary on such an occasion to send representatives with gifts, and these representatives may be diplomats wanting to secure for Hiram the same formal relationship he had with David.
A. The Tyrian king sends his delegates.
Their mission is evidently successful because "the two of them [make] a treaty" (1 Kgs 5:12). The agreement is easier because there is an uneventful transition of power in Jerusalem.
B. The Israelite king succeeds his father.
Unlike many other administrations in the Ancient Near East, the monarchy in Israel (i.e., before the division into north and south) is hereditary, passing from father to son. Furthermore, the transition is generally peaceful and, except for Absalom's brief coup attempt, it is a smooth change from David to Solomon.

Application: Sometimes, perhaps often, you may not appreciate or even notice how God has intervened to make your life easier because you have given Him priority. He is free to work His will without encountering resistance to it. You implement the sage's counsel, "In all your ways acknowledge Him [i.e., put Him first], and He will make your paths straight" (Prov 3:6). The formula for guaranteed success in life is not complicated. It is both simple and straightforward—Put God's interests ahead of your interests.

Some people might think that David does not reach his full potential because he does not build the temple. He prepares for it by gathering materials, but he does not see to its construction. Yet of all the people God puts forth as models of advancing His agenda, it is someone with but a single qualification. He is "a man after [God's] own heart" (1 Sam 13:14). That is, he puts God first. So, what he accomplishes, despite its not including temple construction, because of his desire to please God, was his full potential. If your greatest desire is to please God, then you, like David, will reach your fullest potential.

The job of building the temple falls to Solomon. It is a monumental task, and he asks Hiram to be part of that venture.

II. Solomon requests help with temple construction (1 Kgs 5:2, 6).
1 Kgs 5:2 Solomon sent back this message to Hiram: ...6 "Give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians."
Some of Hiram's subjects have a reputation for being able to work with timber native to the northern region.
A. The king needs materials.
While Israel does have some trees (e.g., "the forested hill country" Josh 17:18), "the cedars of Lebanon"° are better suited for construction than are "sycamore-fig trees" (1 Kgs 10:27), and Solomon knows Hiram can supply some of the best lumber available for large projects.
B. The king needs workers.
Solomon has people to do the construction, but he can also use more help. Hiram is not merely shipping the lumber, he is also providing the laborers skilled in working with this resource, a service he may not offer to every customer.

Application: You might start a new project without realizing how much effort or money it will require. If you begin a project of which God would approve, then you can depend on His support throughout, although you may still need to count the cost. Whether or not Solomon thinks he will need help from Hiram, God knows how big this project is. Since building the temple does have God's approval, Solomon can rely on His support throughout, even if some unexpected challenges arise along the way. As Paul writes, "God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches" (Phil 4:19).

Hiram provides raw materials for Solomon's temple project: "Hiram kept Solomon supplied with all the cedar and pine logs he wanted" (1 Kgs 5:10).

III. Both men cooperate for temple construction (1 Kgs 5:10-12).
1 Kgs 5:10 Hiram kept Solomon supplied with all the cedar and pine logs he wanted, 11 and Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand cors of wheat as food for his household, in addition to twenty thousand baths of pressed olive oil. Solomon continued to do this for Hiram year after year.... 12b There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty.
Although there are no contemporaneous accounts outside the Bible, this temple project must be one of the most impressive structures in the Ancient Near East: "The temple that King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits long [= 90], twenty wide [= 35] and thirty high [= 45]" (1 Kgs 6:2).
A. They agree on the cost.
In the negotiations that ensue, Hiram and Solomon come to terms for the purchase of building materials. At last, all the work is carried out, "from the day the foundation of the temple of the LORD [is] laid until its completion" (2 Chr 8:16). But this collaboration between Hiram and Solomon is more than an exchange of goods and services.
B. They agree on a treaty.
God does not forbid His people from having contact with their pagan neighbors, God does, however, caution His people that establishing contracts with their pagan neighbors can be detrimental: "Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you" (Exod 34:12). Israel's close relationships with pagan neighbors ("in the land") can jeopardize the nation's relationship with God if His people adopts the behavior of its pagan neighbors.

Application: It is God's desire that you have a positive affect on other people, attracting them to Him. Nevertheless, He recognizes that other people may have a negative affect on His people (you), turning them from the path of righteousness He has set before them. As the sage recommends, "If sinners entice you, do not give in to them.... If they say, "Come along with us...." Do not go along with them...for their feet rush into sin." (Prov 1:10-11, 15-16) Set an example for others. Be a trend fashioner not a trend follower; do not let your peers dictate your priorities.

Conclusion: Building the temple is Solomon's great task, a project he does not undertake alone but with help from one of David's Companions, Hiram—A family friend, whose acquaintance comes through a relationship his father establishes. Rarely, if ever, does what you endeavor start with you. It is often the culmination or continuation of something God began earlier, perhaps much earlier, and you are simply the latest participant, and "He who began a good work...will carry it on to completion" (Phil 1:6).

For the Footnotes and Bibliography see the pdf here.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Ittai (2 Sam 15:19-22)

Ittai—An unconditional friend (2 Sam 15:19-22)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2019

There may be a sense of comradery for those who find themselves in the same situation even if they have little else in common.
John's cell phone quit working just as he tried to let his wife know he was caught in traffic and would be late for their anniversary dinner. As he waited for the long line of cars ahead of him to move, John composed a message on his laptop computer, asking other motorists to call her, printed the message on his portable printer, and taped it to the rear window. When John finally arrived home, his wife greeted him with a big kiss. "I know you love me," she said.... "At least 70 people called and told me so."
There may be a sense of comradery for those who find themselves in the same situation even if they have little else in common. David is significantly different from a particular officer under his command, but the two men still forge a friendship, despite that one is a Jew and the other is a gentile. Among David's Companions is Ittai—An unconditional friend.

There is a common ethnicity that binds together the descendants of Abraham. Yet more important than their common ancestry is their common deity and His revelation to them:
What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? (Deut 4:7)
No other nation...know[s] his laws. (Ps 147:20)
Gentiles, though they lack a common ethnicity, can still acknowledge this deity, and they do. Through contact with Jews, many gentiles become aware of Israel's God. More importantly, through contact with Jews, some gentiles adopt Israel's God for their own, as He makes the opportunity available to them. Some gentiles in that latter category are easy to identify because the biblical description of them is sufficiently detailed. Other gentiles in that latter category are difficult to identify because the biblical description of them is less detailed. Still, the biblical author may provide sufficient intimation to point the reader in that direction, as is the case with one of David's Companions, Ittai—An unconditional friend, who appears briefly in the biblical text with just enough detail to suggest that he is one of those gentiles who adopts Israel's God.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Abiathar (1 Sam 22:18-23)

Abiathar—A protected friend (1 Sam 22:18-23)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2019

Do you ever feel trapped between a rock and a hard place? The situation is embarrassing, but you have nowhere to turn.
One evening Jackie and her teenage daughter Kim were out shopping when Kim decided to make a purchase. She greeted the cashier with only a "Hi," then proceeded to dig nervously in her wallet. She was having obvious trouble counting out the correct bills and change. But rather than help, the cashier simply stood and watched while Kim fumbled and mumbled her way to the correct amount. Finally, the transaction was complete. As Jackie and Kim were walking to the car, Kim turned to her mother and said, "That was my math tutor."
Do you ever feel trapped between a rock and a hard place? That is how Abiathar the high priest may have felt, trapped between David, the commander of Israel, and Saul, the king of Israel.

Among David's Companions is the priest Abiathar—A protected friend, whose relationship with David forms out of his concern for the cleric's safety when David learns that King Saul is trying to kill him. The king thinks Abiathar has "conspired" (22:13) with David against him. Abiathar does help David but not for some nefarious purpose. David visits the priest at Nob, having had to leave the court suddenly with no time to pack adequate supplies:
David asked [Abiathar] "Don't you have a spear or a sword here? I haven't brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king's business was urgent [giving Abiathar 'plausible deniability']." The priest replied, "The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one." David said, "There is none like it; give it to me." (1 Sam 21:8-9)
Doeg, a minor functionary in the king's court ("Saul's head shepherd" I Sam 21:7), informs Saul of this encounter: "I saw the son of Jesse...at Nob. [The high priest] gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine." (1 Sam 22:9-10) The report fuels Saul's paranoia and leads to his turning against the religious community at Nob. Later, Doeg becomes the king's executioner, and as an Edomite, he has "no qualms about killing Israelite priests [willing] to do what Saul's Israelite officials refused to do" (Youngblood 1992:736).

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Jonathan (1 Sam 20:1-43)

Jonathan—An instant friend  (1 Sam 20:1-43)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2019

Social media have revolutionized how we interact with other people and sometimes determine if we interact with other people.
The modern phenomenon of Facebook enables you to maintain contact with a vast number of individuals called "friends" who can remain apprised of your most exciting activities by reading or viewing what you post on the networking site. Should you become displeased with someone, for whatever reason, you can "unfriend"—an awkward new word now found in some modern dictionaries—you can "unfriend" that person, removing his or her name from your list of favored individuals who have access to your Facebook account and have the privilege of seeing whatever gems you post there.
Geico insurance company pokes fun at the phenomenon in a commercial that features three older women, two of whom do not quite grasp the Facebook technology. One woman brags about how easy it is to post pictures, as she refers to several photos she has taped to an actual wall. When a second woman expresses some displeasure at one of the pictures, the first woman thinks she can keep her from looking at all the pictures simply by saying out loud, "I 'unfriend' you," whereupon the third woman, obviously tech-savvy, says, "That's not how any of this works."
Social media have revolutionized how we interact with other people and sometimes determine if we interact with other people. Back in days of yore, when David lived (c. 1000 B.C.), long before social media, people talked with each other face-to-face, and people made friends face-to-face. Among David's Companions is Jonathan—An instant friend, with whom a relationship forms almost immediately, upon first meeting.

Despite the fact that David is one of the most prominent figures in sacred writ, the biblical author says very little about him before his confrontation with Goliath, giving only a brief description of his entry into the king's employ:
David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse [David's father], saying, "Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him." ...But David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father's sheep at Bethlehem. (1 Sam 16:21-22, 15)
David entered the court of King Saul where he became fast friends with Jonathan, the monarch's son.
Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. (1 Sam 18:1-3)
A friendship forms between the two boys almost immediately. The characterization of their relationship as one of "love" (v. 3) is not sexual but political, as the repeated description of it as a "covenant" (18:3; 20:8, 16; 22:8; 23:18) also evinces.

Despite their comradery, though, David and Jonathan appear together in the biblical text only twice more before parting ways, separated at last by Jonathan's untimely death at the hands of "the Philistines" (1 Sam 31:2). Both times they are together the conversation is about Saul's animosity toward David, which seems to follow the public's declaration after Goliath's defeat: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands" (1 Sam 18:7).

Saul is determined to kill David, but he does not succeed, despite his having several opportunities to do so. David, on the other hand, is determined not to kill Saul, despite his having at least one opportunity to do so. David says, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." (1 Sam 24:6) David patiently bides his time, confident that God will bring him to the throne when the moment is right according to His plan.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

What to pray (2 Chr 20:1-13)

WHAT TO PRAY (2 Chr 20:1-13)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2019

Sometimes you face a difficult situation and know that you should pray but do not know how. In an act of desperation, you might compose a limerick like this student writes the night before an exam.
As I sit me down to study,
I pray the Lord I won't go nutty.
If I should fail to learn this junk,
I pray the Lord I will not flunk.
But if I do, don't mourn at all,
Just lay my bones in the study hail.
And tell the prof I did my best,
Then pile my books upon my chest.
Now I lay me down to rest,
And pray I'll pass tomorrow's test.
If I should die before I wake,
That's one less test I'll have to take.
Sometimes you face a difficult situation and know that you should pray but do not know how. King Jehoshaphat faces a difficult situation, and he may wonder What to Pray. He does not compose a limerick, though, but voices something that is effective in resolving his difficult situation.

After the Northern Kingdom of Israel falls to Assyria, and King Jehoshaphat rules the remaining Israelites in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, a federation of local governments decides to exploit Judah's weakness and invade the land. As these hostiles position troops at the border ready to attack, the Jewish monarch knows he is outmatched and appears before his people to enlist their aid in asking God for help.

I. The nation faces a coalition of enemy forces (2 Chr 20:1-4).
2 Chr 20:1 The Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army2 is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar" (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
A. The enemy readies to pounce.
When Assyria invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel, enemy troops spared the Southern Kingdom of Judah, leaving that nation intact as a buffer with the Egyptian empire further south. Now that Assyrian troops are no longer in country, Judah faces a coalition of Moabites and Ammonites together again as they were when Israel was in the wilderness on its way to the Promised Land. At that time, God had instructed Moses to avoid them and not to engage with them militarily:

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

So you want a king? (1 Sam 8:1-22)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2019

When you pray it is important to word your petitions carefully so there is no confusion about what you are requesting.
A young boy and his grandmother were walking along the sea shore when a huge wave appeared out of nowhere, sweeping the child out to sea. The horrified woman fell to her knees, raised her eyes heavenward, and begged the Lord to return her beloved grandson. Lo and behold, another wave reared up and deposited the stunned child on the sand before her, wet but unharmed. The grandmother looked the boy over carefully. He was fine. But still she stared up toward the heavens. "When we came here," she snapped indignantly... "he had a hat!"
When you pray it is important to word your petitions carefully so there is no confusion about what you are requesting.

God's people spent the first few hundred years after their exodus from Egypt trying to establish a presence in Canaan. They eliminated many of their opponents, as God instructed, yet not all, and they recently encountered an additional challenge to the conquest. While the Israelites have been moving into the land from the west, the Philistines have been moving into the land from the east and now occupy a significant portion of the coastal plain. To this point, the judges provided good leadership, but the latest judge, Samuel—more specifically, his sons—may not be up to the challenge. It is time for a change, a radical change in the leadership of God's people.' So there would be no question about what they want, the people subscribe to this adage: Be Careful What You Ask.

I. The people desire a king (1 Sam 8:1-18).
1 Sam 8:1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have."
To this point in the history of Israel, God is the nation's leader, a position He demonstrates most clearly by bringing the people out of Egypt and into Canaan. He operates through human agents, like Moses and the judges, but His use of the miraculous leaves no doubt that He is the one working. Unfortunately, while God designed the system, the system has broken down, because human agents are fallible. The latest examples, Samuel's sons, are very fallible, a situation that has caused some concern among the people, as well as some consideration of an alternative solution.
A. Their request is understandable.
1. The priests are dishonest.
Samuel's sons are corrupt, guilty of abusing their religious authority. They are dishonest, take bribes, and pervert justice (v. 3), all in violation of God's explicit commands; and these activities disqualify them for service in the tabernacle of the Lord. But the priests' dishonesty is part of another problem.