You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Oftentimes I do.
A great cover says everything.
When I’m browsing in Barnes & Noble, I don’t even pick up a book that doesn’t have a great cover.
I’m being close-minded, aren’t I?
There are probably fantastic books with lousy covers, and I’m the one losing out because I’ve refrained from going beyond the cover.
While reading in 1 Kings today, something caught my attention. I plowed through the minute details of preparation and the laborious specifications in building the Temple in chapters 5 and 6. When I got to the end of chapter six, I read that it took King Solomon seven years to build the Temple.
Then in 1 Kings 7:1, I read this:
“It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace” (NIV).
He spent almost TWICE as much time on his own home than he did with God’s Temple?
I couldn’t believe it!
Were his priorities out of line?
This seems completely unbalanced!
The more I read, however, the more I understood:
Things aren’t always as they seem.
You really can’t judge a book by its cover.
Solomon can be commended for putting the Temple first.
He determined to put God first and built the Temple before he focused on his own needs.
You see, there was an immediate need to provide a place of worship for the Israelites, and Solomon was wise enough to know that his personal needs could wait.
Also, there were no previous preparations for his house as there were for the Temple. And when the Temple was being built, Solomon and the people were quickened by God’s express command to complete it. The palace was merely for personal convenience. God’s house was a necessity.
Solomon showed greater glory by focusing on the honor of God than he did his own comforts . . . and that’s a lesson for all of us.
Things aren’t always as they seem.
Can you relate?
We will never fully understand God until we’re in heaven with Him. Let’s stop trying to make sense of His ways—because sometimes they just don’t make sense!
The first shall be last?
The last shall be first?
If you want to be great, head to back of the line and start serving?
Let’s make it our goal to simply OBEY God . . .
whether we understand His commands or not.
If only Saul had known this truth!
Maybe you remember the story. If not, you can find it in 1 Samuel 15.
God sent Samuel the prophet to instruct King Saul to kill the Amalekites. Who were they? The Amalekites were an evil and brutal tribe who attacked God’s people, the Israelites, as they traveled through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
The Amalekites had no reverence of fear of God. They had a reputation for especially attacking the weaker members—women and children and elderly people who couldn’t always keep pace with the rest of the Israelites.
God’s word to Samuel was to instruct King Saul to kill every living being among the Amalekite tribe—every man, woman, child and animal. So Saul gathered 210,000 soldiers and destroyed the Amalekites.
Maybe you’re familiar with what happened next.
Saul and his troops were returning home from battle when Samuel met them on the road. “Glory be to God!” Saul shouted. “He has given us victory in battle because of our obedience.”
“Seriously?” Samuel asked. “Your obedience? Then how come I’m looking at a bunch of fat sheep and oxen? You were supposed to kill every living thing!”
“Well . . . you’re gonna love this, Samuel! I decided to keep the fattest sheep and the strongest oxen so we can offer them as a sacrifice to the Lord when we get back to hometown. That way all the people can come out and celebrate WITH us as we praise God for this victory! Great plan, huh!”
Samuel was disgusted. “No! It’s a horrible plan. You’ve acted in direct disobedience to God. What you have done is as bad as satan worship. God desires your obedience over sacrifice any time and every time! And because you’ve disobeyed, God will remove you from the throne. That’s right—you nor any of your family will continue to rule over Israel! And by the way . . . who’s he?”
“This is King Agag. We didn’t kill him, because when we return home, we’ll have a giant victory parade so everyone can see him as our trophy—and as we give thanks to God, we’ll kill him THEN.”
Samuel was so horrified at Saul’s blatant disobedience, he grabbed Saul’s sword and immediately annihilated Agag.
Seems pretty harsh, you may be thinking.
What’s the big deal with some animals and killing the king now or later?
It kind of makes sense.
It DOES kind of make sense, doesn’t it?
Why wouldn’t God want the sacrifice of all these animals?
Again, we don’t understand God’s ways. If we try hard enough, we can make anything make sense. We can rationalize and rationalize until it seems right.
But it’s not our job to make God make sense. It’s only our job to obey Him.
OK on the animals. God didn’t want them as a sacrifice. But what’s the big deal about killing Agag then or in a giant victory parade? Isn’t the bottom line that he’s killed? Does it really matter when?
Every detail of God’s will always matters.
Let’s push the fast-forward button on this story. It’s 20 years in the future, and Saul is down in battle on Mount Gilboa. His enemy has the sword at Saul’s neck, so Saul is unable to turn around and identify him. So Saul asks: “Who are you?”
The response of his enemy?
“I . . . am . . . an Amalakite.”
How can this be? Saul killed all the Amalikites. He wiped them out.
Yes, but he didn’t do it God’s way.
From the time Saul took King Agag into captivity from the time he met up with Samuel was less than a week. But it was just enough time for Agag to escape, father a son and be taken captive by Saul again before meeting Samuel.
And now . . . 20 years later . . . the son of Agag is out to destroy Saul.
The son of Agag HATES you!
He will do everything in his power to destroy you.
That’s why a God who loves you more than you can comprehend says, “If there’s anything in your life that’s keeping you from obeying Me wholeheartedly, annihilate it.”
Anything you need to annihilate?
Uzzah died because he reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant as it was being transported. (If you didn’t catch last week’s blog, please look it up.)
We read in 2 Samuel 6:1-7 and 1 Chronicles 13:9-12 that the Ark was being transported on a cart with poles on it. And it was being pulled by oxen.
When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out and touched the Ark, and God killed him.
Though you may think this is harsh, there are actually a few pieces to this story that we often overlook.
If we read Exodus 25:12-14 and Numbers 7:9, we see that God gave Moses and Aaron extremely specific instructions on how to transport the Ark.
Those instructions were being ignored.
Instead of being carried on top of men’s shoulders, the people had built a cart to transport the ark. This would be so much easier! Let the oxen pull it, so we don’t have to carry this big golden box. (It weighed 615 lbs.)
Do you think God smiled and thought, What a great idea! I’m so glad they came up with that. A cart! Wheels! What novel ideas. If only I’d thought of it.
Why do we often think we need to improve what God tells us?
Another piece to this puzzle is that Scripture tells us the oxen slipped. The Ark didn’t fall. Neither did the cart. The OXEN slipped. The Ark was still in tact. Still balanced.
Instead of grabbing the Ark of God’s presence, Uzzah should have grabbed the poles attached to it. (Actually he should have been carrying it on his shoulders with several other men instead of walking beside it while the oxen did the work.)
The really frightening piece to this story is that Uzzah, for a moment, felt it was his responsibility to save the integrity of God. He was acting as though majestic, perfect, all-wise and almighty God somehow needed his assistance.
Uzzah mistakenly presumed that if he didn’t intervene and help God out, Jehovah would be in trouble.
I wish Uzzah had read Job 11:17: “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” (NIV)
I wish he had memorized Psalm 145:3: “He is too great for anyone to understand” (NLT).
Moses made a similar mistake when he thought God needed his intervention to STRIKE the rock instead of simply SPEAKING to it as God had commanded him. Because of this offense, Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land (see Numbers 20:7-12).
Sheer obedience is ESSENTIAL in a growing, thriving relationship with God.
Sure, He’s full of love.
And yes, He’s definitely merciful.
But He is also holy and just, and He demands our obedience.
The way we prove our love to God isn’t by singing praise songs
or memorizing Bible verses
or having a perfect church attendance
or praying six times a day.
The way we prove our love to God is simply by
“If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15 NLT).
Ask God to remind you of any spiritual details you may have let slide.
Maybe you’re familiar with the Ark of the Covenant. It was a large and beautiful golden “box” created with specific instructions from God. It weighed approximately 615 lbs.
The original stone tablets on which God inscribed the Ten Commandments for Moses to give the Israelites were inside the Ark.
It also held Aaron’s rod that budded when he helped Moses lead the Israelites through the wilderness.
What else was inside the Ark? The golden pot that contained manna (the food God delivered from heaven to the Israelites as they headed toward the Promised Land for more than 40 years).
In 2 Samuel 6:1-7 and 1 Chronicles 13:9-12 we see that the Ark was being transported on a cart with poles on it. And it was being pulled by oxen.
The oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out to steady the ark. He died immediately.
That’s right. God killed him for touching the Ark of the Covenant.
Doesn’t that seem a bit harsh?
Looks to me like Uzzah was trying to help the Ark.
Let’s look a little deeper.
Does God EVER need help?
If we read Exodus 25:12-14 and Numbers 7:9, we see that God gave Moses and Aaron extremely specific instructions on how to transport the Ark. It was way more than a big golden box. It served as the place of the presence of God. “And there I will meet with you . . . on the ark of the Testimony, I will speak with you” (Exodus 25:22).
God made it plain that touching the Ark was in direct violation of God’s law and would result in death.
We know that God isn’t bound by time or space. He’s above and beyond all. Yet for His people, He bound Himself to this box. He was (and is) everywhere; but He was there.
Uzzah’s touching the Ark wasn’t the only thing that went sour that day. Actually, several mistakes were made!
(We’ll chat about that next week, but today let’s just look at one.)
The Ark had been at Abinidab’s house (King David’s son) for a few years, and Abinidab’s sons Uzzah and Ahio may have become too comfortable with its presence. Maybe the Ark became too familiar. Could Uzzah have forgotten the holiness it represented?
And what about us?
Are there times when we also fail to recognize God’s holiness and His presence? Has church become a social gathering place for us?
We grab a donut, some coffee, chat with friends, sing cool songs and hear a message about God. But are we revering Him? Are we moving inside His very presence with awe and respect? Do we really stand on holy ground?
Maybe we, too, have lost some of the respect we should have for God’s presence. The Israelites had witnessed several miracles of God (the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, defeating their enemies en route to the Promised Land, water from a rock—just to name a few).
God’s ways are always higher than ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9). And the Israelites were well aware of this fact. They marveled at His greatness.
The truth is: The more we try to bring God down to our worldly way of thinking and reasoning, the further away He will seem.
Should we stop trying to bring Him to us? Should we ask instead that He bring us to Him?
Let’s determine to come to Him in reverence.
Let’s come to Him on His terms—not our own.
Uzzah forgot that essential ingredient. He no longer revered God’s presence in the Ark.
And the result was death.
I don’t think we’ll be struck physically dead if we forget . . .
But if we keep forgetting—
If we continue to treat God casually in our lives AND in our churches—
we could very easily experience spiritual death.
What are some ways you revere God?
Or has He become so familiar to you, that He is now simply your buddy?
In Deuteronomy 3, we read about the Israelites (God’s chosen people) destroying those who stood in their way and wouldn’t let them pass on to the land God had promised them.
King Og of Bashan was an evil man. God empowered the Israelites to destroy Og and his entire city. After the destruction, check out what the next Scripture says:
“Incidentally, King Og of Bashan was the last of the giant Rephaim. His iron bedstead is kept in a museum at Rabbah, one of the cities of the Ammonites, and measures thirteen and a half feet long by six feet wide” (Deuteronomy 3:11 TLB).
That’s one big bed.
That’s way bigger than a king-sized bed.
Even bigger than a California King-sized bed.
King Og was one of the giants in the land (remember Goliath?).
OK, but why does the Bible record the details of his bed?
It’s like saying, “The Americans won WWII, and Hitler drove a BMW.”
Don’t you think it’s odd that we get such details about something so specific as his bed?
Is it important to know how big his bed is?
Do we even care about the bed this guy slept in?
So why is it recorded?
We won’t know for sure until we get to heaven and can ask God,
but I want to make a suggestion.
God was empowering His people to annihilate everything that kept them from becoming all He wanted them to be.
Could it be that God is telling us that no matter how expensive our car is . . .
how nice our house is . . .
how big our flat screen is . . .
if it prevents us from becoming fully obedient to Him—
Father, I love the THINGS in my home:
my Coca-Cola collection,
my fun shoes,
my recliners . . .
But if they keep me from intimacy with You—
if they hold me back from being completely obedient to Your will . . .
give me the power to annihilate.
Get rid of.
I want to be full of YOU, Father.
So help me to listen carefully and attentively to Your voice.
And help me to obey You in every area of my life.
Anything you need to destroy?
Have you ever thought about what it means to praise God?
Psalm 96 tells us that someday
the seas will demonstrate His glory,
the earth will rejoice,
and the fields will display His greatness.
Let that soak into your brain for a second.
How will the seas demonstrate His glory?
Will trillions of waves simply stand on top of the ocean’s surface
and begin singing?
Or will the plant life and mountains from the very bottom of the sea rise to the top and begin shouting glory?
Will coral hum a praise tune?
Try to imagine how the very earth will rejoice.
Will trees do hip-hop?
Can you see a hill starting the wave?
Maybe every blade of grass will boogie down to some rock and roll! Or the leaves will sing in harmony.
Every grain of sand on the earth may belt out a brand-new praise song to the Creator.
And what about the animals?
They’re part of God’s creation.
You know they’re going to be in on the action.
I can’t wait to heart it!
Hippos, hyenas, hamsters, hawks, hedgehogs, hummingbirds, and horses may have their own “H Choir.”
And I can just hear the cats, chipmunks, cows, canaries, camels, chickens, cheetahs, crocodiles, caribou, chimpanzees, cobras, candors, crows, cranes, and even cockroaches trying to outdo them!
How do you personally praise your heavenly Father?
I’m not talking about being in church and just singing what’s on the screen because that’s what everyone else is doing.
I’m talking about personal praise that comes straight from your heart. It may be through singing or listening to praise music.
Though that’s what usually comes to mind when we think of praise, there are other ways in which you can praise your Father.
Try praising Him by kneeling the next time you pray.
This is an act of humility and reverence.
It shows that you revere Him as your absolute authority.
You can also praise Him vocally.
When you’re having your quiet time with God, interrupt the quiet by saying “Hallelujah” loudly, or “I praise You, Lord!”
Another way you can praise God is by lifting your hands.
This shows you’re sending the praise in His direction.
You’re pointing toward the heavens.
You’re raising your hands in gratitude.
Try thanking God in prayer.
This blesses Him. Yes, you can actually bless the Lord.
In fact, it’s scriptural! The proof is found in Psalm 103:1:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (KJV).
We can only imagine what it will sound like someday to hear turtles, wildflowers, and caves praising our God.
I can’t wait to hear the melody of the stars singing in unison.
Maybe the little ants will be singing soprano,
and the queen bees will be singing bass.
But we don’t have to imagine what it’s like for us.
We have the privilege of praising God right here, right now.
Let’s do it!
“All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name” (Psalm 66:4 ESV).
How do you most often express your praise to God?
Every now and then we all need a break.
Even Jesus made time to get alone.
He loved to receive strength and renewal from His Father.
If you’d like to really get away . . . like all the way to the Caribbean . . .
seriously consider joining me on the cruise I’ve put together through
Susie Shellenberger Ministries.
May 28 to June 4.
We’re going to Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Montego Bay.
If you want to swim with dolphins,
enjoy some inspired speaking,
great Bible study,
lots of laughter,
the best food you can imagine,
and spiritual growth—
The cheapest room is $836 for two people—each person paying $836.
It’s a seven-day cruise departing from Galveston, TX.
If you’d like me to mail you the complete informational brochure,
send me an email and include your mailing address.
Time is almost up!
Because we’ll be departing May 28, the complete price has to be paid in March. Yes, you still have time—but not much.
So act quickly.
Anchors away for an amazing spiritual retreat on the water!
What’s YOUR favorite way to retreat and renew?
I’ve been reading the Old Testament book of Job this week.
Are you familiar with this true story?
Good man goes through horrific times.
His 10 children die, his ranch full of animals die.
His wife suggests he turn his back on God.
His three best friends tell him the reason he’s experiencing such horrific physical and emotional pain is because of his sin.
But Job is a godly man.
He has been obedient to God.
And he’s not bitter. But he IS confused.
He can’t understand why he’s experiencing such pain.
Still . . . he remains faithful to God.
The bulk of his story are his three best friends belittling him for days and trying to persuade him to admit that he’s done something wrong.
I don’t know where the saying “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” came from . . . but it could have birthed itself here. Wouldn’t it have been great if his friends would have simply sat with him? Put their arms around him? Prayed for him?
Check out what’s said in the last chapter of Job’s book:
“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10 NIV).
Did you catch the key?
After Job had prayed for his friends.
He forgave them, and he prayed for them!
We can’t imagine the emotional pain his “friends” dumped on him.
But Job forgave, AND he prayed.
I want to be the kind of friend . . . the kind of disciple . . .
who will forgive those who hurt me—
and even pray for them.
Maybe that’s the key to God’s blessing of peace.
And deep joy.
Why not go to YouTube and listen to Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness.”
If you haven’t heard it yet, I’ll give you a sneak preview of the beginning:
It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…
Is there someone you need to forgive?
It takes too much energy to hold a grudge.
Enjoy God’s deep settled peace by forgiving!
We tend to label someone a hero who does something specific to help another in a world-changing way. But even these acts are only temporal. The heroism makes someone’s life better today, but not eternally.
The greatest heroes are people whom God uses to changes lives forever—people He uses as instruments to bring others into His kingdom. And we also know that God specializes in using unlikely heroes—people we wouldn’t ordinarily select.
I think of 11 disciples, ordinary men who were used in extraordinary ways to usher in the church and to spread the gospel throughout the known world.
And I think of a man we don’t have a lot of information on. His name is Enoch. We find him listed in the “Hall of Faith Heroes” in Hebrews 11:5-6:
“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (ESV).
The only other time we read about Enoch is in Genesis chapter 5. In Genesis 5:21, we discover that he was the father of Methuselah (the man who lived longer than anyone else—969 years). And though we don’t have much history on Enoch, we know that Scripture describes him as a man “who walked with God.”
What a description!
Wouldn’t you love for people to think of you that way?
How wonderful it would be if above all your accomplishments, your family, your career, your personality, the thing that stands out most is that you walk with God!
“Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24 NIV).
Enoch never died. He walked so closely with God, that he simply walked right into heaven!
Enoch was definitely God’s friend. Wherever Enoch walked, God was there. If we desire it, plan for it and ask for it, God will be constantly in our company as well.
Ask God to deepen your walk with Him in 2016. Tell Him that you want Him to do more IN you and THROUGH you this year than ever before. Determine to walk so closely with God that you see Him in your actions, thoughts, dreams, plans, hobbies and activities.
Make this the year that you live in His presence 24/7 . . . 365.
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