Monday, April 25, 2016

Are You A Child Of God?

12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
1 Samuel 2:12 (KJV)

The Old Testament book of First Samuel discusses Eli, a priest of Israel, and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were also priests (1 Samuel 1:3). Eli was a descendant of Ithamar, the fourth son of Aaron, and Eli was the high priest in Shiloh at the beginning of First Samuel.[1] During this time in Israel, Eli functioned as both high priest and judge, judging Israel for 40 years (1 Samuel 4:18). Eli faithfully served God; however, he was a lax father who did not manage his two sons, Phinehas and Hophni. Although Hophni and Phinehas were priests, the Holy Scriptures call these two sons of Eli “sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12, KJV). “Sons of Belial” is a Hebrew term that described worthless people who openly practiced lawlessness, evil, and wickedness (see Deuteronomy 13:13; Judges 19:22; 1 Samuel 25:17, 25; Proverbs 6:12-14; Proverbs 16:27). The same Hebrew is also used in such passages as 1 Samuel 10:27 for “troublemakers”; 1 Kings 21:10, 13 for “scoundrels”; and Job 34:18 for “worthlessness”.[2] In 2 Corinthians 6:15, the Apostle Paul uses Belial as a synonym for Satan.[3] Even though Hophni and Phinehas were outwardly acting as servants of God, they did not in reality know and serve Him (1 Samuel 2:12; see also Matthew 7:15-23).

Hophni and Phinehas were worthless priests and evil men who did not honor, respect, and obey the LORD God (1 Samuel 2:12). These two brothers abused their position, and they were greedy, arrogant, and selfish (1 Samuel 2:13-17, 22, 29). Hophni and Phinehas often took meat for themselves first from sacrificial animals brought by worshippers before they were properly dedicated to God (1 Samuel 2:14-16). Instead of taking the allotted priestly pieces after the prescribed offering to God had been made, Hophni and Phinehas selected the best cuts first (1 Samuel 2:29; see also Leviticus 3:3–5; Leviticus 7:22–36; Leviticus 10:14–15; Deuteronomy 18:1-5).[4] These two brothers treated “the LORD’s offering with contempt” and “trampled on” (scorned or disrespected) the LORD’s sacrifices and offering (1 Samuel 2:29).[5] Hophni and Phinehas not only showed disrespect for God’s sacrifices, but they also had no regard for the women who served at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22). Instead of encouraging the women in their spiritual walk, these two brothers would seduce and lay with the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle (see 1 Samuel 2:22). The sins of Hophni and Phinehas were great in God’s eyes for they continually treated God and God’s people with disrespect and contempt (1 Samuel 2:17). These two brothers committed evil deeds at God’s Tabernacle and invited God's judgment. Even more, Hophni and Phinehas had no respect for God or their office as priest, so that all God could do was judge them and Eli’s family.[6]

Eli was now very old and a godly man with poor eyesight (see 1 Samuel 3:12; 1 Samuel 4:15). As high priest, Eli was aware of Hophni and Phinehas’s sins and wickedness towards God and among the people (1 Samuel 2:22). Eli confronted his sons and said, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning” (1 Samuel 2:23, NLT). Furthermore, Eli told his sons, “It is an awful thing to make the Lord’s people sin. Ordinary sin receives heavy punishment, but how much more this sin of yours that has been committed against the LORD!” (1 Samuel 2:24-25, TLB). However, Hophni and Phinehas ignored their wise father’s instruction (1 Samuel 2:25).

For their disobedience and wickedness, the LORD God was planning to bring His righteous judgment against Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:25; see also 1 Samuel 4:11). God sent an unnamed prophet to pronounce judgment on Eli and his family (1 Samuel 2:27–36). As a result of Eli’s apathy and Hophni and Phinehas’ heinous wickedness, God chooses to remove Eli’s sons and their descendants from the priesthood. Eli and his wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas, fell under the wounding judgment of God (see 1 Samuel 2:27–36). Even worse, Hophni and Phinehas’s sinful leadership brought defeat and judgment on God’s people (see 1 Samuel 3:1; 1 Samuel 4:1-11). God’s final judgment against Eli and his descendants occurred when Solomon removed Eli’s descendant Abiathar as high priest and replaced him with Zadok (1 King 2:35).[7]

God is holy, and He knows all our ways (1 Samuel 2:2-3; see also Exodus 15:11; Leviticus 11:44). As a loving God, He will properly judge all our actions (1 Samuel 2:3). All the earth belongs to the LORD God, and the LORD judges throughout the earth (1 Samuel 2:8, 10; see also Psalm 96:10, 13). The true and living God protects those who are faithful to Him, but He brings destructions to the wicked (1 Samuel 2:9; see also 2 Samuel 2:26-27; Psalm 18:25; Proverbs 2:8). 

Yet one bright spot of hope emerged from Eli’s faithful ministry—Samuel. In contrast to Hophni and Phinehas’s wickedness, Samuel faithfully followed the LORD God and grew up to be one of Israel’s greatest judges and prophets (see 1 Samuel 2:17–18; 1 Samuel 3:19–20).[8]

5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with Moses, and the LORD called out His Name: the LORD (Yahweh, Jehovah). 6 The LORD passed in front of Moses and said, “I am the LORD. The LORD is a God who shows mercy, who is kind, who does not become angry quickly, who has great love and faithfulness 7 and is kind to thousands of people. The LORD forgives people for evil, for sin, and for turning against Him, but He does not forget to punish guilty people. He will punish not only the guilty people, but also their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren, and their great-great-grandchildren. Exodus 34:5-7 (NCV)

Faithlife Study Bible ((Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
King James Version Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988).
KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994).
Word In Life Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

[1] King James Version study Bible
[2] Zondervan
[3] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament
[4] KJV Bible Commentary
[5] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament
[6] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament
[7] Faithlife Study Bible
[8] Word In Life Study Bible

Monday, April 18, 2016

LORD of Heaven’s Armies

1 There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph in the hill country of Ephraim. . .  3 Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle.
1 Samuel 1:1, 3 (NLT)

Some of the marvelous titles of the true and living God used throughout the Holy Scriptures are “Lord of Hosts,” “LORD of Heaven’s Armies,” “LORD All-Powerful,” “LORD Almighty,” “Lord of the heavens,” “GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies,” “Jehovah (Lord) of Hosts (Sabaoth),” and “Lord of the armies.” These royal titles for God reveal God’s character as a strong military figure who rules the angelic armies of heaven and the armies of Israel as Israel’s ultimate Leader (e.g. see Deuteronomy 33:2; Joshua 5:13–15; 1 Samuel 17:45; Matthew 26:53; Revelation 19:14). Moreover, these titles for God emphasize God’s universal sovereignty and omnipotence as the Ruler of the stars (e.g., see Psalm 89:11; Isaiah 40:26), the angelic host (e.g., see 1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 103:20-21; Luke 2:13-15), and over all creation (e.g., see Isaiah 42:5; Amos 4:13). Finally, these titles express God’s unlimited resources and power He uses to help His people (e.g., see Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 46:7, 11; Haggai 2:4). Thus, these titles for God embraces God’s universal rule over all forces whether in heaven or on earth, and anticipates His eventual defeat of all those who oppose Him (see Isaiah 24:21–23; Isaiah 34:1–10). The Holy Scriptures record a living demonstration of God’s power to help His people in any situation.

1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him. . . .  7 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 8 Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty; the LORD, invincible in battle. 9 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 10 Who is the King of glory? The LORD of Heaven’s Armies— He is the King of glory. Psalm 24:1, 7-10 (NLT)

The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sins of the King

But the LORD was displeased with what David had done. 2 Samuel 11:27 (NLT)

The Old Testament books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles record many sins and failures on the part of God’s leaders, including Eli, Samuel, Saul and David and the painful consequence of their sins and disobedience towards God (e.g. see 1 Samuel 15:22-23). Eli and Samuel’s sins involved their failures to properly manage their household (e.g., see 1 Samuel 2:12-36; 1 Samuel 8:1-3). Saul failures included continual rebellion and disobedience towards God’s instructions (e.g., see 1 Samuel 13:13-14; 1 Samuel 15:10-11, 17-19, 23). As king of Israel, Saul became prideful and impatient towards God. Eventually, God replaced Saul with David and made David king, “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22, NLT; see also 1 Samuel 13:14). David’s heart was fully devoted to the Lord God (e.g., see 1 Kings 9:4; 1 Kings 11:4, 6) and he never worshiped any other gods except the true and living God of heaven and earth (see Exodus 20:3-7; Exodus 34:14).

However, even David sinned against God. David’s most famous sins were his adultery and lusts of Bathsheba and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12). While Israelites’ fighting men went off to war (1 Samuel 11:1), David stay home and had a secret adulterous relationship with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11:2-4; 2 Samuel 12:12; see also Exodus 20:14, 17; Deuteronomy 5:18, 21; Matthew 5:27-28). Bathsheba eventually conceived a child from the relationship (2 Samuel 11:5) and David tried to hide his adulterous relationship by calling Bathsheba’s husband Uriah back home from war (2 Samuel 11:6-8). However, Uriah refused to engage in sexual relations with his wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:9-13) and David eventually ordered that Uriah be killed (2 Samuel 11:14-17; see also Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; Matthew 5:21-22). After Uriah’s death, David stole Uriah’s wife and married Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:26-27; see also Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19; Matthew 19:18-19). Bathsheba gave birth to a son from the relationship (2 Samuel 11:27). David’s sinful acts of adultery, theft, covetousness, and murder displeased God (2 Samuel 11:27; 2 Samuel 11:9).

Prophet Nathan to David:  9 “Why, then, have you despised the word (commandment) of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. 10 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. 11 This is what the LORD says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. 12 You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.” 2 Samuel 12:9-12 (NLT)

David’s sins against Bathsheba and Uriah displeased God (see 2 Samul 11:27; 2 Samuel 12:9), and he paid the consequences of his sins against God’s commandment (2 Samuel 12:9-11). God through the Prophet Nathan confronted David’s secret sins toward Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 12:1; see also Psalm 51). The all-knowing and all-seeing God saw David’s supposedly secret sins of adultery, theft, covetousness, and murder displeased God (Proverbs 15:3; Hebrews 4:13). When confronted with his sins by the Prophet Nathan, David immediately confessed his sins against God (2 Samuel 12:13; see also 1 John 1:9). The Prophet Nathan told David that God had taken away his sin, and God graciously forgave David’s sins (2 Samuel 12:13, 24-25; see also Psalm 32:5; Psalm 51:2; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). However, David had to face the consequences of his many sins (2 Samuel 12:14; see also Hebrews 12:4-11) and the remainder of Second Samuel reveals David’s consequences of his sins and disobedience towards God and His commandments (see 2 Samuel chapters 13 – 20). The consequences of David’s sins not only affect himself but also his family.

David’s moral failures with Bathsheba and Uriah resulted in devastating consequences within his family. First, the son born to David and Bathsheba died (2 Samuel 12:14-15, 18). Next, David’s son Amnon raped his half-sister, Tamar, who was a virgin (2 Samuel 13:1-14, 18) and his half-brother Absalom avenged Tamar’s rape by killing his half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13:23-33). Then, David’s son Absalom conspired and stole his father kingdom (2 Samuel 15), and eventually David’s soldiers killed Absalom in battle rebellion (2 Samuel 18:9-15). David’s son and successor Solomon matched some of David’s sinful practices by marrying many wives and these many wives lead Solomon away from wholeheartedly serving and loving God (1 Kings 11:1-6). After Solomon’s death, Solomon’s sons continued to disobey God and caused the nation of Israel to split into two kingdoms – northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah) (1 Kings 11:31-40).

One lesson is obvious as one reads First and Second Samuel: obedience to God brings blessings while disobedience brings God’s judgment. God is gracious, kind, and merciful but God is also holy and just (e.g., see Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18-23; Psalm 86:15; Nahum 1:3). God will not tolerate sin and wickedness, even from His servant David, a man after God’s own heart (e.g., see Hebrews 10:26-27). The life of David demonstrated the sobering truth that God judges sin and disobedience (see also Romans 7:12; Hebrews 12:10-17). Our sins grieve our gracious God. While God is patient and merciful and answers the prayers of His people, He is also holy and just and will not tolerate continual sin and disobedience (Leviticus 11:44; Habakkuk 1:13; Hebrews 12:1-2, 14; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 John 1:5-7). God’s faithfulness and unselfish love should inspire us all to dedicate our whole hearts and lives in faithful obedience to God (e.g., see 1 Samuel 15:22; Micah 6:6-8; Mark 12:33; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11, 22).

Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
J.I. Packer. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

David . . . A Man After God’s Own Heart

20 “After that, God gave them judges to rule until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22 But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after My own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’ 23 And it is One of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel!” Acts 13:20-23 (NLT)

The Apostle Paul in the first century reminded the early church why King David was so significant to Israel and the world. The true and living God of heaven and earth (Acts 17:24) chose and honored Israel by graciously redeeming Israel from Egyptian bondage (Acts 13:17; see also Exodus 6:1, 6-7; Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Deuteronomy 10:14-15). Then, God cared for Israel through forty years of wandering around in the wilderness (Acts 13:18; see also Deuteronomy 1:31). Next, God destroyed seven nations in the Promised Land of Canaan and gave Israel their land as an inheritance (Acts 13:19; see also Deuteronomy 7:1; Joshua 14-19). All this took about 450 years (Acts 13:20). Israel was in Egyptian slavery for 400 years, and then Israel experienced 40 years of wandering in the wilderness desert. After 40 years, Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land and distributed the Promised Land to God’s people, Israel.

After Israel had settled in the Promised Land, God gave Israel judges to rule them until the time of the Prophet Samuel (Acts 13:20; see also Judge 1:21; 1 Samuel 3:19-20). Then, the people begged Samuel for a king (1 Samuel 8:19), even though the Lord God was Israel’s true King (1 Samuel 12:12). God appointed Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, as Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 9:1-2; 1 Samuel 10:1). Saul reigned in Israel for forty years (Acts 13:21). Saul was tall and good-looking; he was an impressive-looking man (1 Samuel 9:2). God filled Saul with His Spirit to lead His people, Israel and God was with Saul (1 Samuel 10:5-7; 1 Samuel 11:6). However, Saul continually rebelled and disobeyed God (e.g., see 1 Samuel 13:13; 1 Samuel 15:23-26). Saul became prideful, impatient, and disobedient to God. Then, God filled Saul with an evil tormenting and injurious spirit (1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Samuel 18:10). Eventually, God replaced Saul with David and made David king (Acts 13:22). God filled David with His Spirit (1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 23:2) and said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22, NLT; see also 1 Samuel 13:14).

Many different leaders fill the Old Testament books of First and Second Samuel, including Samuel, Eli, Saul, Jonathan, and David. Among all the godly people mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, no one who stands out more than David does. Born halfway between Abraham and Jesus, David became God's leader for all of the Israelites and the ancestor of Jesus the Messiah. David faithfully obeyed God (Acts 13:22), and he did what was just and right for all his people (e.g. see 2 Samuel 8:15; 1 Kings 11:34-38; 1 Kings 14:8). Moreover, David became the standard God used to judge all the kings of Israel and Judah.

What were the noble qualities that David possessed that pleased God? David possessed the Godlike characteristics of love, joy, loyalty, mercy, kindness, patience, courage, generosity, fairness, honesty, and non-retaliation -- as well as other God-honoring characteristics such as humility and repentance (see Exodus 34:6-7; Galatians 5:22-23). David showed justice, mercy, and fairness to his enemies, allies, and close friends alike. Even more, David remained loyal to Saul and his family despite Saul’s hatred toward David. David’s heart was sensitive to God’s leading, and he regularly sought God for guidance and strength in military and government decisions (e.g., see 1 Samuel 23:2, 4; 1 Samuel 30:8; 2 Samuel 2:1; 2 Samuel 5:19, 23). Under David's leadership, Israel's kingdom grew and prospered.

Although David was the most righteous of all Israel's kings, he was still imperfect. David was human, and the books of Samuel do not hide David’s sins and failings. Mainly, Second Samuel records David’s sin and the temptation of lust, adultery, and murder with Bathsheba and Uriah (see 2 Samuel 11), and David’s sinful pride in taking a census to glory in the strength of his nation (see 2 Samuel 24). Despite David’s failings, he always repented to God when confronted with the truth (e.g., see 2 Samuel 12:13; 2 Samuel 24; Psalm 51). Throughout his life, David accepted God’s divine correction and chose to remain faithful and repented before a merciful God rather than to abandon God and try to survive on his own.

Despite David’s flaws and imperfection, First and Second Samuel reveal David’s genuine devotion and faithfulness toward God. David’s actions showed his true love and trust in God with all his heart, as the law in Deuteronomy 6:4-6 demanded. From King David came Jesus, the hope of Israel (Acts 13:23; see also 2 Samuel 7:11-16). Jesus is God’s Promised Savior of Israel and the world (Acts 13:23; see also Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:10-11; Acts 4:12).

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).