As Commnded  

~~MTS-3976
As Commanded
“And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the LORD.”
         1 Ch 15:15

Obviously there is a great difference in strength between man power and horsepower. I certainly know the disparity very well.
As a small lad, one of my duties every morning was to fetch drinking water from a well near the fish pond in front of our house every morning. My sister and I first threw a canteen bucket into the well and jerked the rope connecting the bucket a little, thus overturning the bucket to fill the water, and then pulled it up. We poured the water into a bigger wooden jar and then my sister and I carried it with a bamboo pole on our shoulders to the kitchen. It was a laborious task for us, for the jar filled with water to the brim was awfully heavy and it hurt our shoulders to carry it. We had to walk rather gingerly to avoid stumbling on the way, for had that happened, our entire effort would have been all for naught. While we were laboring, carrying the water to the kitchen, our water buffalo seemed to be resting comfortably in his stall, which was quite a shame, for he could have helped us and saved us a lot of labor. We could have used the cart pulled by the water buffalo to haul the water, which would have been a much more efficient way to accomplish our tedious task.
That wasn’t the way my grandmother told us to do it, however, and we dared not violate her will, for she was the reigning queen in our large family of uncles, aunts, and cousins.
It mattered very little in the scheme of things whither we hauled the water with man power or buffalo strength, really. Either method would have been fine. Yet it made a great difference whether the Levites transported the ark on their shoulders or on a cart pulled by oxen, for by doing the latter a man was stricken down. There was indeed a grave consequence for them by not doing it God’s prescribed way. It wasn’t really a right or wrong kind of thing; obedience to God’s mandate was the issue of greatest concern.  Saul’s offering up the sacrifice to God was such a great offense to God, but not because it was the wrong thing to do; it just wasn’t what God had prescribed through his servant Moses. Of course doing what violates God’s prescribed mandate is always wrong.
The line between right and wrong has become increasingly vague merely because we have taken the Divine out of the equation in our consideration of moral appropriateness, thus making all moral decisions that we make relative and, consequently, there is no single virtue that we hold supreme except the virtue of tolerance.
To whom do we turn if we toss “thus says the Lord” away from our consideration of moral issues? A ship will be tossed to and fro in the vast ocean if she is not firmly anchored on a solid rock. 
    

   

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, May 29, 2015 7:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Consecration 

~~MTS-3975
Consecration
“So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel.”          1 Ch 15:14

What can be taken off
And must be, is all stripped
Peeled and scraped
Layer by layer until all is bare
Exposed and transparent
With nothing to see except
Darkness visible and filth palpable,
Heart pulsating with desire
And soul panting with ambition
With accumulations of all
That has gone wrong before
Simmering underneath and gathering heat
With smoke escaping,
Rising like the midnight breathing
Of a restless volcano,
Sleeping yet awaking
Waiting to explode
To declare who he is
And what has ever been.
What can and must be taken off
O Lord, what should be broken
Peeled, scraped, and stripped,
What has been accumulated
Assimilated, acquired, achieved
And accomplished, buried as a trash heap
Simmering and smoldering
With stench spreading
Penetrating and permeating my whole being;
O may all that has been unearthed
Be scorched and be consecrated entirely
Thus to be found worthy
As someone who was and is
Meant to be, and will ever be.

 
   
    

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 28, 2015 6:56:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Prescribed Way 

~~MTS-3974
The Prescribed Way
“We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.”
             1 Ch 15:13

If all roads lead to Rome, it doesn’t really matter which route we take, right? There is more ways than just the Appian Way that we can take as long as it takes us to the ancient city. Indeed.
“There is more than one way to skin a cat.” Why do people want to skin a cat, anyway? Well, a big cat, I suppose. The goal is to skin a cat, and there are more or less efficient ways to do so, but at the end a cat is skinned and all things are well.
“Not so fast, my friend.” This common expression has been made known all over the sports world by an ESPN GameDay broadcaster. It simply means that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions predicting which football team will come out on top.
It’s a “my way or the highway” kind of thing, really. One of the greatest frictions that I have had with someone in the church was over the way to formulate discussion questions for our group Bible studies. It was a minute thing for me, but it was a giant issue for the brother involved. He acted as if his way of making discussion questions was divinely prescribed.
Perhaps he had a point, but I wasn’t so sure. The issue at hand surely was negotiable, since there is more than just one way to study the Holy Scriptures.
“My way or God’s way,” however, is a much more serious issue. Does it please the Lord if we apply wrong means to achieve a godly end? Concerning our salvation, there seems to be only one way to achieve the desirable result. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is no other way except the way of Jesus. We may consider this too tyrannical, or whatever, but do we really want to risk our eternal destiny trying other ways? What if they don’t work?
“We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.”
Obviously there was only one way to conduct the business of moving the ark, which had been prescribed and revealed to Moses years before. Had David inquired of the Lord beforehand, the tragedy would have been prevented. Surely the king wasn’t going to make such a serious mistake twice.
God’s prescribed ways are the best ways, yet we often prefer to do things our way, and suffer the ill-effects of our ill-advised actions. Instead of waiting on God, some of us may have consumed our energy trying to find a mate for ourselves in various ways, and often it resulted in bitter break-ups and hearts being broken. We may also exhaust all we have trying to build a career, not realizing that the Lord has already prepared the best for us. Finding God’s prescribed way for our lives and executing it accordingly is the best way to go, come to think of it. There simply is no better way than God’s way. 
  

  
 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 27, 2015 9:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Tent 

~~MTS-3973
The Tent
“After David had constructed buildings for himself in the City of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it.”   1 Co 15:1

After his palace was built in the city of David, the king again thought about bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to where he was. Even though his first attempt resulted in a disaster, he never gave up the idea of relocating the holy article, for it represented the presence of God.
David must have felt a little ill at ease living in his grand palace while the ark was still misplaced elsewhere. In fact, he had been collecting materials to build a temple to house the ark, albeit he wasn’t going to be the one to construct it. In the meantime, he went ahead and “prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it.”
 Even so, the king chose to build for himself and his many wives and children a palace first. After years of wandering up and down the wilderness and oftentimes hiding in caves, he was more than ready to settle down at the city named after him. Who can blame him for building a palace since he had the means to do just that, and being a king, he was certainly entitled to start a building project for himself.
There wasn’t anything wrong with him building a mansion for himself, but it wasn’t an absolutely necessity for him to do so. He could have lived in a tent and put his building project off until the ark was properly housed. Whatever is lawful for us to do doesn’t exactly mean it’s right or pleasing to God. What we seek from the Lord isn’t merely his approval; we desire to do what pleases him the most.
Being one of the wealthiest persons in the world, Warren Buffet could have made his son very rich by the stroke of his pen, yet he turned his son down when he tried to borrow some money from him. Instead of doing what’s was the most expedient, the tycoon did the wisest for his son, which proved to be the most beneficial to his beloved in the long run.
Does this mean that we can do whatever we want to do with the rest of our income after we meet the requirement of giving our tithes and offerings to God? Not really so at all. The law may demand that we give one tenth of our earnings, but grace and mercy require us to give up one hundred percent of all we have. This being the case, David should have continued to live in a hut or a tent until the house of God was built. He didn’t have to construct a palace for himself after he became king in Jerusalem, even though he was entitled to do so and had the means to do it.

Most of us may be willing to walk the first mile with others when asked, but very few of us are about to walk the second mile. “I'll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink." Surely this verse from Genesis about Rebekah’s kindness is worth pondering for all of us.

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, May 26, 2015 8:17:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Sound 

~~MTS-3972
Sound
“As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move out to battle…”       1 Ch 14:15

That’s the sound above all sounds,
Above the noise of the world
And the murmur of the interior
That no one has ever heard
About the longing and desperation,
Longing to break free from silence,
To utter the unutterable
And to speak the unspeakable
Or to voice the inaudible.
The inner secret has been buried for years
Like a pearl never unearthed;
Perhaps that’s the sound you heard
In dreams by night and aspirations by day
That keeps humming in your ear
From youth till old age,
The voice marching above the trees
And whispering in the bushes,
Rising as dew on the lawn
Silenced by the morning sun.
That’s the sound above all sounds,
Higher than the tenor’s highest pitch
Lower than the bass ever reached.
You have been following the song of a thrush
Searching for the birds behind the singing
That lingered in the forest
And tracing the path of the wind
Behind all its blowing
That bent all the trees in one direction
Pointing to the end of your exploration,
The destination where you hear exclaiming;
O let there be sound
Let there be an explanation.
 

   

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, May 25, 2015 7:17:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Abandoned Gods 

~~MTS-3971
Abandoned Gods
“The Philistines had abandoned their gods there, and David gave orders to burn them in the fire.”          1 Ch 14:12 

The Philistines were soundly defeated by David’s men and they deserted their gods while they were running away. Ironically, the gods the Philistines brought with them to the battle to be their protectors needed to be protected after the defeat, proving that humans were more powerful than the supposedly divine in time of danger. The Philistines could at least run for their lives, but there was nothing the wooden idols could have done for themselves and they were all turned to ashes at the end.
It was all so natural for the Philistines to do such a thing, since their gods were created by their own vain imagination to be their protectors and guardian angels. The gods were useless to their masters unless they performed their duties satisfactorily; they were in essence servants to the ones who formed and shaped them and endowed them with power and strength they themselves did not possess. Obviously the Philistines weren’t able to create any supernatural beings more powerful than they were to be their protectors and to fight for them in battle. They were doomed to fail from the onset.    
We may have accomplished what the ancient Philistine failed to achieve. Perhaps only to a certain extent, however.
Whatever we idolize are the gods we have made to be our protection in time of need. Don’t some of us call money the “almighty dollar” and perceive it that way? We even endow it with speaking ability by stating that “money talks” and praise it by labeling it “all powerful.” Indeed money is a god we have created and it even once had a personal name: “You cannot serve God and wealth (Mammon,)” said the Lord Jesus. Money may keep us from hunger and cold in this world, but there is a limit to what it can provide. “What can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” asked the Lord. Just like the Philistine gods, Mammon will be turned into ashes as well at the end, and we will get no help from it when we are running for our lives.
I pray that we are not engaged in any god-creation business in any way, for whatever we create from our vain imagination is much less powerful or capable than we are and to put our trust in it is a lot more unreliable than putting trust in ourselves. Idolatry is foolishness beyond measure. Only the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present God is worthy of our worship and he is capable of helping us in time of trouble if he so desires.
 
        

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, May 22, 2015 7:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

More Wives 

~~MTS-3970
More Wives
“In Jerusalem David took more wives and became the father of more sons and daughters.”         1 Ch 14:3

As far as wives are concerned, I believe one is better than two, or three, or more. If two or more wives are better than one, the Lord would have created more wives for the first man; thus getting more than one is a form of rebellion against the Creator, claiming that his original design is less than perfect. Therefore we create for ourselves more problems, not fewer, more misery, not less, by having more than one wife, or husband.
"Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” Of course this can be read metaphorically. The Samaritan woman’s thirst for love and happiness wasn’t quenched by having six husbands. She would have been better off by working on her first one, and her shot for fulfillment in life would have been much greater.
The desire to have more than one wife is obviously a sensual one; but the strength to stay with one woman is spiritual in nature. If given the choice, most carnal men will always want to have more than one wife; but men who are controlled by the Spirit will always cling to the wife of their youth. “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth,” we read in the book of Proverbs.
What’s the difference between the two, then? It lies in the basic understanding of love, one being sensual and the other spiritual; the former seeks it from the body and the latter from the Spirit. It takes an entire lifetime to convert sensual love into spiritual, yet many people lose their patience by forsaking their first love and replacing it with another, so they never learn what love is at the end.
Why isn’t there marriage in heaven? We may be curious about our Lord Jesus’ statement. Perhaps the romantic love in heaven is spiritual in nature; therefore a relationship in the flesh is no longer needed. If we reason along this line, our relationship with our wives will dissolve in the heavenly realm if there is no spiritual bonding between the two. So it really doesn’t matter whether we have one or many wives; all things flesh will be ended with the end of our flesh.
It’s God’s mercy that he allows us to have one wife or one husband and gives us an entire lifetime to work on our relationship with our spouse to achieve spiritual unity, so that our bonding with our soul mate will be an eternal one. Looking through the spectrums of spirituality and eternity, the ones who take more than one wife are not to be envied, they are to be pitied, for they simply don’t have the time or energy to simultaneously build a spiritual bond with more than one woman. Envy among the many wives certainly would make it impossible to build any kind of spiritual bonding within the marriage. All the women Solomon, and David to some extent, managed to collect were merely sex partners and children-producing “machines.” They might have had many wives, but in essence they had none. The ones who are not content to have just one wife will end up with no wife, both here on earth below and in heaven above.         

   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 21, 2015 7:06:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Building Project 

~~MTS-3969
Building Project
“Now Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar logs, stonemasons and carpenters to build a palace for him.”    1 Ch 14:1

Did cavemen really live in caves, or is that merely our speculation? Did cavemen really exist at all? If there were cavemen and cavewomen, Adam and Eve would have been the first ones. I suppose the weather was perfect and there was no need for them to have any sort of shelter. The heavens above were their roof and the earth below was their playground during the day and their bed during the night. Of course things changed after they were driven out from the Garden and finding shelter became absolutely necessary, but they didn’t necessarily find it in caves; they could have built it with logs or other material they could find. A shelter was more of a necessity than anything else, and it was fine as long as it served the purpose of sheltering and protecting.
How things have changed these days! The very first thing that people do after they become prosperous is build themselves a mansion with all the amenities that go far beyond just shelter and protection; it becomes rather a symbol of status. We had been renting for years and for a year or so our family of five managed to live in an 800 square feet apartment on campus, which wasn’t an ideal situation at all. So we purchased a home when I started to bring in a little income and it was almost heaven to us, even though the house was quite small and the area wasn’t great. We were nevertheless content. Years later we moved again to an old house located in an undesirable neighborhood with many substandard houses and yards overgrown with weeds. I felt rather poor when I took my morning walks, which only caused me to feel guilty for being so snobbish. I should not be defined by where I live nor should I perceive others that way. 
David had labored long and hard to get to where he was and it would have been quite a downer had he kept his same old lifestyle and remained in the same old hut or ancient cave where he used to live when he was on the run. Indeed, he needed to build a mansion for himself more fitting to his new-found identity. The king of Tyre truly was a man after David’s own heart, for he knew exactly what the newly crowned Hebrew king had in mind and he donated all the necessities to make it happen.
Besides, the king needed a big place to house his growing family with newly acquired wives and the children he steadily produced with them. Being a man after God’s own heart, David was merely human and did what was deemed appropriate for the time. Kingship was relatively new to the Israelites, and he just followed the common practices of foreign despots of the time. Grand palaces and beautiful women were the perks that came with kingship, and David seemed to be quite happy to oblige.
What’s deemed acceptable by the world or by the Christian circles even may not always be the godly thing to do. David didn’t have to start a building project instantly after he assumed the kingship, but he did; and he didn’t have to take many more wives, but he did. There is no condemnation given in the Scripture concerning these things, but silence on a certain issue does not equal approval.     
    

   

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 20, 2015 6:55:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Self-doubt 

~~MTS-3968
Self-doubt
“How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?”
             1 Ch 13:12

David believed he was doing something godly and good, yet it turned out to be somewhat of a disaster. A Levite died in the process and the celebration became an occasion of mourning.
“How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?”
The king must have had a strong sense of unworthiness and guilt, thinking it was his fault the tragedy took place. It was his idea to bring the ark back and he felt he was responsible for what had transpired. “Was it my sin that caused this to happen?” he might have asked.
It was all too natural for him to ask such a question, wasn’t it? This sort of thing seems to happen to us all the time. When things go awry, we don’t usually question God’s faithfulness; we often question ourselves. Self-doubt creeps into our hearts when we hit a bump in the road on our spiritual journey.
We are fully assured that we have found that special someone until the first big fight breaks out, and we start to have doubts and second thoughts. We may be quite confident that the Lord is leading us on the path of getting an advanced academic degree until we get our first C, and then thoughts of quitting begins to surface. We may have no doubt it was the Lord who led us to a certain job until the boss has a serious talk with us about our job performance and we start to draw up a resignation letter. Adverse circumstances often rob us of our faith in God and our determination to follow him.
It happened to me. Well, more than once, really.
I felt the call to become an assistant minister out west and merely six months into the job, I decided to resign just because I received a less than satisfactory evaluation from one of the deacons. I guess the Lord didn’t really call me, come to think of it. I thought I was going to remain in Taiwan and be a college teacher for good, yet I became restless after three years and started sending out graduate school applications. Being a romantic has caused me a lot of troubles in the course of my life, but I seemed to lack staying power, which is essential in following and serving the Lord.
David decided not to bring the ark back to the Holy City after the tragic event took place. He became angry and depressed over the whole thing and it took him several months to recuperate.
Aren’t we all too accomplishment-oriented in our walk with the Lord and often lose sight of God’s omnipotence and his power to get things done in the twinkling of an eye? What he desires for us to learn is centered on the cultivation and development of a godly character. The measurement of our development lies mainly in how we deal with difficulties and hardships. Successes don’t impress the Lord in any way; the way we recover from failures and losses does. 
   
 

   

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, May 19, 2015 6:59:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Anger 

~~MTS-3967
Anger
“Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah…”          1 Ch 13:11

I guess David was more disappointed than angry over the unfortunate incident in which Uzzah lost his life. How could he be angry with the Almighty God who did what he considered just? The king had no right to question God’s judgment. It was likely that he was displeased with Uzzah for his carelessness, yet the Levite was struck dead for the offense he had committed and becoming angry at the man and for what he had done seemed to be rather inconsiderate. Uzzah didn’t touch the ark of the Lord intentionally.
He was probably angry at himself for his decision to bring the ark back to the city of David. The king might have been blaming himself for Uzzah’s death, since he was the one who had initiated the idea of relocating the ark. Things simply hadn’t turned out the way he had expected and the joyful occasion changed into an occasion of mourning.
    David honestly believed that he was doing a good thing, something pleasing to God.
The nation was finally united and it appeared to be the right time to restore sound religion and worship in people’s lives. It wasn’t yet the time to erect the holy temple of the Lord, but he at least could bring the ark back to the city and make the worship of God prominent among the people of Israel. David was rightly motivated to bring back the ark and no one could question his intention. Even so, something awful had still occurred in the process.
The whole thing must have been rather puzzling to the king, for a bad thing seemed to have come out of something he deemed decent and good. Was there anything wrong in what he was doing?
There simply is no guarantee that things will always go smoothly, even if we are doing what the Lord calls us to do. Our ultimate goal may be God-pleasing and God-honoring; the ways we implement to achieve the end may determine the outcome. Our end may not always justify the means. Uzzah’s carelessness seemed to ruin the whole thing, causing David to forsake the entire enterprise.
Indeed, the devil is in the details.
Being a responsible teacher, my son often becomes anxious when his students take the state’s assessment test, as if the outcome of the exam alone determines whether he is an effective or responsible teacher or not. Indeed, he would have ample reason to feel anxious about the outcome of the testing if he had been neglectful of doing his best instructing his students. People may pay more attention to the result; God cares more about the process. The testing results may not always reflect the effort teachers have put into the preparation and effort of teaching. What really went wrong with the venture of bringing the ark back to the holy city wasn’t the end itself; something went terribly wrong in the process.        
    

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, May 18, 2015 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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