May 27, 2015

When is a Christian fit or unfit to serve God?

1 Chronicles 21:1–22:19, 2 Timothy 2:14–26, Psalm 86:1–87:7

God gently reminds me of two important truths from today’s readings. The first is in the OT reading concerning David after he became the king of Israel. “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” (1 Chronicles 21:1)

This was not a normal census; David numbered his army. It could be compared to me listing my strengths, particularly when I’m trying to determine the best way to serve God. It is so easy to forget that God doesn’t need my strengths, and that He wants me to serve in weakness, relying on Him.

The NT reading has a couple verses that correspond to what David did and what he needed to do after this numbering happened. It says God’s servants are to correct their opponents, which is what Joab tried to do with David. The reason for this is that “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:25–26)

David did repent, but he learned the hard way that listening to Satan and doing what he suggests had disastrous consequences for his people. Because of David’s sin, 70,000 people in Israel died.

The second truth is even more personal. When I first became a Christian, the local church didn’t want me to become a member because I had been divorced before I was saved. At the time, I didn’t not know what ‘narrow-minded legalism’ meant.

Even when I was allowed membership, they would not allow me to serve. Their reasoning was that because of David’s sin with Bathsheba, God would not allow him to build the temple. Therefore, because of my sin of divorce, I could not help in the church. Again, at the time I thought this was the ‘rules’ of being a Christian and did not protest.

Later I learned what today’s reading reveals — the real reason David did not build the temple. He said to Solomon, “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth.’” (1 Chronicles 22:7–8)

In this case, a man of war may have trouble leading in peace time, but whatever God’s reason, David accepted it. However, past (and forgiven) sins cannot disallow Christians from serving God; otherwise no one could. Some pick out David as justification for making some sins worse than others, and use that to deny other sinners opportunities to do service to God. Some of them would be better informed by these thoughts....

“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20–21)

According to this, some may serve in a different capacity than others because of some current condition, but that condition (or sin) can be changed! If I continued to repeat a divorce/remarry pattern, or was guilty of any other sin (robbing banks, beating my children, gossiping about my neighbors, etc.) then it would make sense to tell me to sit back. Yet God is in the business of saving people from the power of sin. He can change a dishonorable person into a holy and useful person.

David was the song-writer of Israel. His prayers were put to music and sang from their psalter. Here is one of them:

“O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.” (Psalm 86:14–17)

After my early experiences as a Christian who could not be useful to God, I realized that the temple Solomon built (instead of David) is long-gone. David was not allowed to build it, but he was allowed to write the worship songs of Israel, and those psalms remain today, still used by God to bless millions of people. 

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