David

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 8 – Kings and Kingdoms

[Bible references: 1 Samuel 13:14; 26:11; 1 Samuel 24:1-7; 26:1-12; Acts 13:22]

Meanwhile, God had selected David, someone who was described as “a man after God’s own heart,” to be the next king. However, David’s reign did not begin until many years later. This meant there was going to be a long and difficult in-between time of testing:

  • Saul’s heart continued to be tested as he was rejected by God, but it would be a long time before the end of his reign. In the meanwhile, he had his duties to perform.
  • David had been anointed to be the next king, but it would be many years before it happened. In the meanwhile, there would be much conflict in which David had to trust God and do what he thought he needed to do. David didn’t test God by unnecessarily putting himself in harm’s way, rather he looked to God for wisdom and acted accordingly. When David had opportunities to kill King Saul, he refused to do so and instead waited for God to act.

This is the area where we typically fail: Adam and Eve could not wait for God to give them knowledge so they grabbed for it; Abraham and Sarah could not wait for God to give them a son through Sarah and so they used Hagar; Jacob could not wait for his inheritance so he and Rebekah had to trick Isaac; Moses could not wait for God to provide water by just speaking to the rock and so he had to strike it. In contrast, to be obedient, David was willing to wait for God to replace Saul and did not take advantage of the opportunities he had to kill him.

Friendship

[Bible references: 1 Samuel 18-20; Proverbs 17:17]

In this difficult period, David would form with Saul’s son, Jonathan, the best friendship he ever had. Jonathan recognized that his own father, Saul, was rejected as king, but instead of jealously trying to hold onto what he could not have, he accepted David as the heir to the throne.[1] In fact, Jonathan was crucial to David’s survival.

The war King

[Bible references: 2 Samuel 2-5, 11:1]

In time, Saul did die, and David became king, although it would be in phases. Initially there was a civil war as people that were loyal to Saul did not pledge loyalty to David but to another king. As in many conflicts, in addition to the overt conflict, there was much subterfuge and political intrigue as well which would have consequences later. Then, even after uniting the kingdom, David had to lead Israel through constant warfare as he expanded the kingdom. So even though David was called and anointed to be king, that did not mean that there was a clear path to becoming king and it did not mean that there would be no conflicts once he became king. It also did not mean that David would be perfect.

Repentance

[Bible references: 2 Samuel 12:1-14; Psalm 51:1]

There were a couple of instances where David committed sin but, unlike Saul before him, David responded to Yahweh’s rebuke with repentance. The most egregious sin David committed was to have an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers, getting her pregnant. Then when he failed to cover it up, he arranged for that soldier to be killed on the front lines. When the prophet, Nathan, confronted David about the sin, David repented and confessed his sin. The baby born from that affair died shortly after being born, but later David would have another child with Bathsheba, Solomon, setting up the next story line.

Messy family life

[Bible references: Deuteronomy 17:14-20; 2 Samuel 13:1-21; 2 Samuel 13:23-29; 15:7-23]

David did have many wives and concubines, but unlike Solomon, the king who reigned after him, David’s polygamy had not led him to worshiping other gods. The Bible doesn’t condemn David for his polygamy, but it seemed to exasperate a weakness in David. David had many children through his wives and concubines, but he failed to discipline them. His inability to discipline his sons resulted in rape of one of his daughters by one of his sons, who was murdered by another son to avenge the rape, and then attempted to dethrone David. This all meant that the path to succession to David’s throne would not be straightforward, but in the end, David selected his son Solomon to succeed him.


[1] This brings to mind, a quote from a missionary, Jim Elliot. “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Chapter 7 – Settlement

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 7 – Settlement

Courage and memory

[Bible references: Numbers 1; Deuteronomy 31:1-8; Joshua 1:1-9; Joshua 3-4; Joshua 5:13-14; Deuteronomy 6:10-12]

When the people of Israel first approached the Promised Land, twelve spies were sent out to scout out the land. Joshua and Caleb were the only two spies that did not bring back a report of discouragement. The discouragement brought by the other ten spies caused all the people of Israel to rebel against God as they forgot all the miracles of God’s provision in their flight from Egypt. This resulted in God subjecting the people of Israel to encamping in the wilderness for forty years. All the adults except for Joshua and Caleb, were subject to die in the wilderness before the people of Israel would enter the promised land.

It was therefore Joshua who was chosen to lead the people into the Promised Land at the end of the forty years. As before, the nation of Israel would encounter other people already living in the land, so Israel would need to fight for the land; it would not be easy. Before Joshua led his people into the land, God repeatedly said to Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage … do not be terrified or discouraged.” Then as a refresher, God also performed miracles as the people entered the land, causing the Jordan River to cease flowing to allow the people to cross on dry land – repeating the miracle of the parting of the sea as they fled Egypt.

Before Israel even left Egypt, the people were given gold and other wealth that was not theirs, the water from miraculously made springs and the manna that fell from the sky was not theirs. Now the homes and fields that God gave them to capture were the provision of God as well.

God’s fullness, his followers’ emptiness

[Bible references: Numbers 33:55-56; Deuteronomy 7:1-5; 12:2-3, 29-32; 6:17; Joshua 3:3; 4; 6; 10:1-15; 23-24; Isaiah 65:6-7]

God’s provision though was going to require their involvement. It would start with the way they crossed the Jordan River where the people carrying the ark needed to get their feet wet in the river before it would stop flowing. And since this time, the river would now be the boundary of their new land, the people were instructed to set up a monument of twelve stones to be a reminder God’s provision. The next miracle which came soon after was the crumbling of the walls of Jericho which occurred after seven days of marching around the city. That miracle would be followed by others as the people of Israel continued to capture the cities.

According to the message that Yahweh shared with Abraham, the entry of Israel into the Promised Land meant that the sin of the Amorites had now reached its full measure. As with the time of Noah, that full measure would now end in the destruction of the inhabitants of the land, this time by the people of Israel. The danger to Israel would be, that if the current inhabitants of the land with their idolatries and atrocities, which included sacrificing their children to be burned alive, were allowed to live among the people of Israel, the people of Israel would be tempted to also turn from God.

So, beginning at Jericho, the people of Israel to instructed to “totally destroy” (Hebrew “herem”)[1] the inhabitants of the city. This instruction would be repeated other times as well. The problem that would appear is that Israel did not always follow these instructions with the consequent result that Israel would continuously get drawn into the idolatries of the current inhabitants.

Before Joshua died, he challenged the people to serve Yahweh and the people responded that they would choose to serve Yahweh. Joshua replied that they could not serve Yahweh, the God who is so holy. Nevertheless, the people responded that they would serve Yahweh. Joshua then said that they were “witnesses against themselves.” They would be. In the end, they did not follow God’s commands to defeat the tribes in the Promised Land. They did not “completely destroy” the cities as they were told. Israel therefore allowed themselves to be subject to continual temptation to sin by turning from worshipping God and towards worshipping idols, participating in the same atrocities that God found so reprehensible.

The God of War

[Bible references: Exodus 22:21-22; Leviticus 19:33–34; Deuteronomy 10:17–19; 24:19; Joshua 6:17-21; 1 Samuel 15:1-3; Psalm 10:14–18; 68:5; 146:9; Ezekiel 47:22–23; James 1:7]

One of the troublesome tensions of the Christian faith is how to reconcile our picture of Jesus who’s come to bring us peace with the picture of the “pre-Jesus” God who seems so violent. In particular, the God who commanded Israel to “totally destroy,” to leave no one alive in the cities of the “promised land” they were to inhabit.

It has been so hard to reconcile the two images of the God, one of the Old Testament that engaged in violence and the second of one of the New Testament who came to “bring peace,” that from the earliest days of the church some Christians felt compelled to abandon the Old Testament altogether. There are several issues that come affect how we deal with this problem.

There are less differences between how God is revealed in the Old vs. New Testaments than many think. (See Chapter 2; Paradoxes and Mysteries; Gracious, Merciful and Just). If we have a problem with God in the Old Testament, then we have a problem in the New Testament as well. Both Testaments together provide the full story of the Gospel and a full picture of God.

We need to see all suffering and death in context of Jesus’ suffering and death by execution. Jesus is God the Son, present from before Creation, the God of Creation, the God of Abraham, Moses and Israel, and the God who commanded Israel to herem the people in Canaan. Jesus cannot be separated from all the activity ascribed to God’s activity in the Old Testament. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace that we are more comfortable dealing with, is only available because of all that He had done beginning with Creation, extending through history of the patriarchs and Israel and eventually his own incarnation, suffering and death.

We need to accept that there is much that we do not know. This comes at us a couple of different ways. We must deal with our cultural separation from the times before Jesus, there are things going on with the ancient near east culture that we don’t know. We also must deal with a knowledge of God that is far beyond ours. We need to take seriously Yahweh’s criticism of Job, and of Yahweh’s admonition to Isaiah, “my ways are higher than your ways,” we must be careful to accuse Yahweh of injustice because there is much that do not understand.

The totality of destruction implied by herem catches our attention, but this is only a specific, though perhaps extreme, case of the question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” The answer to the everyday issue of why “innocent” people suffer, is the same answer that underlies the killing of people that we assume are innocent.

Our sanitized culture makes it difficult for us in the modern day who live in a time where we do not witness the slaughter of animals we eat. We have a hard time associating with those who lived in the time where there was the ritual slaughter of animals, not for the sake of food but for the sake of sins. We have not had to watch the slaughter of animals and contemplate the awfulness of our sin and of God’s hatred of sin because of its awful effect on us. We are then even further separated from the concept of a God so jealous for us that he would even offer himself to be slaughtered on our behalf.

Our perception is further sanitized because we live in a world that has been cleansed by the effect of the grace of Christian values (OK, we have to admit that the church has not always lived up to its professed values) and the ameliorative effects of technology and medicine. It has been the Christian value of life that confronted the once common practice of abandoning babies on the street to die and made it rare. It has been Christian values that have elevated the status of women and children. It has been Christian values that led to the development of modern science. So many of what are now commonly accepted values in Western civilization, were adopted from Christian values, but it’s easy to forget where those values came from.

Yet another level of sanitization occurs when we don’t consider the extent of our own sin and depravity in context of the extent of the holiness of God. A contrast that caused the prophet Isaiah to proclaim, “Woe is me. I am a man of unclean lips from a people of unclean lips.”

We also are forgetful of the mercies of God. 1) Jonah was perturbed when Yahweh responded to the repentance shown by the Ninevites by not bringing about the threatened destruction. 2) The mercies shown to many of the idolatrous kings of Israel when they repented.[2] 3) In the case of Israel entering the Promised Land, we don’t know what kind of warnings the Canaanites may have received prior to the “total destruction” of their cities. We do know that Yahweh patiently waited until he “sin of the Amorites would reach their full measure.” The Canaanites may have had sufficient warning to change their ways (and they had, among other abhorrent practices, that of sacrificing their children to the flames) and yet they didn’t. While we, in our time, may think of the “total destruction” as genocide, it may be instead an act of mercy – reducing the pain and suffering that would otherwise go on.

Sparing the lives of the “innocent” within the borders of the Israel did lead to the Israelites to continue the reprehensible practices of the Canaanite religions, prolonging the suffering that Yahweh wanted to put an end to. Israel’s susceptibility to fall into the sin of the nations around them. Israel was warned that allowing the original inhabitants to live alongside of them, would cause the Israelites to adopt the same abhorrent practices – which is what happened.

God had already used the forces of nature to directly carry out his herem version of justice (ex: The Great Flood which killed all people except Noah and his family, the crossing of the Red Sea in which innumerable Egyptian soldiers died). God’s commanding Israel to invoke herem was now calling Israel to act as his agent in executing a type of justice that God had already been practicing.

How innocent were the Canaanites: men, women, and children? We can’t argue from silence that the Canaanites did not have a chance to respond to God’s warnings. We do know that God waited several hundred years before executing his judgement.

It is not just in the Old Testament that we witness immense suffering. All around us today and through the years before, there has been great suffering among God’s image-bearers caused by our own violence or the violence of natural events or the violence of birth defects. All these can cause us to question, “Why, God?”

All these are various issues, and likely not the only issues, to consider while grappling both with God’s implication in violent activity and with the suffering endured by those we consider to be innocent. These issues, even all taken together, will not necessarily provide us comfortable answers. But we also need to remember, that if we have a “God” we think we totally understand, then it is not God that we are really understanding. Also, if we have a “God” that we are fully comfortable with, then we are not fully dealing with the holiness of God and the totality of our sin.

Jesus dealt with the totality of our sin by his suffering and excruciating death. It is only by the violence endured by Jesus that He has become our Prince of Peace. This is the lens through which we must see the violence around us. But even with that lens, we are not likely to have a ‘satisfactory’ answer. Even with that lens we will still struggle.

Time and time again, we see ordinary people approaching God with raw honesty about human suffering. And God responds to them, because they reflect his own lionheart that’s hell-bent against evil and death. God wants our protest against the evil and pain in this world. … To be a Christian is never to be apathetic toward evil and suffering, nor to avoid protesting God. Instead, we are told to work out our faith in “fear and trembling,” which includes unflinching lament at all the evil and death in this world. We are meant to hold our hands open in foolish faith, to watch and wait with hopeful expectation for God to show up in surprising ways—to remind us that he is good and powerful and that he will grant us his own steadfast courage. We are called to the daring and bold love of God in Jesus Christ, who stopped at nothing—not even death on a cross—to fight and win back the glory and goodness of God’s original creation.[3]

Perhaps we are meant to struggle, to lament about all that’s wrong, evil, awful, terrible, sad, and more that our hearts can bear. But in our lament, not to give up the hope that is also in our hearts, the hope that God our Father is alive, that our Father cares so deeply that He gave His Son, that miracles still do happen and that we can expect God to show up in our midst.

Judges and the Cycle of sin

[Bible references: Deuteronomy 32:28; Judges 2:11-13; 8; 17-18; 21:15, 25; 1 Samuel 4]

Because Israel had not been faithful to “totally destroy” the people whose land they conquered, the foretold consequence became true, Israel became ensnared in the horrid idol worship practices of those people. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

To discipline his people, God allowed Israel to be plundered by the surrounding peoples until Israel cried for mercy. God then raised up leaders called judges to successfully fight off the oppressors and Israel would respond by turning from idol worship, but only for a while. Eventually Israel would fall away from Yahweh once again and the cycle of oppression, rescue, and falling away would repeat.

God raising his people

[Bible references: 1 Samuel 1-2; Ruth 1-4; Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:21-38; 1 Corinthians 25; (See also, Sarah (Genesis 16-18) Rebekah (Genesis 25:19-26) Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25))]

During the time of the judges, while the nation of Israel struggled and failed to follow God, we find that God was raising judges in response to Israel’s cry for help in their ongoing cycle of sin, God was also quietly working the background through individuals to carry out His larger plan.

During the period of the Judges, God used drought to cause Elimelech and his wife Naomi and their two sons to move to Moab. Both of her sons got married in Moab and one of them married a woman named Ruth. When Naomi’s husband and sons were tragically killed, Naomi moved back home to Israel. While Ruth could have stayed in Moab, Ruth desired to follow Naomi and particularly to follow Naomi’s God. God used that act of faith to arrange for Ruth to meet and married Boaz, and thus inserting a Moabite woman into the lineage of people who would become the ancestors of Jesus.

There is a recurring story that began in Genesis with Abraham and Sarah, where God working through women who have difficulties in pregnancy. In the time of Judges, the woman was Hannah. In her struggle to become pregnant, Hannah leaned on God. One day, while she was praying at the tabernacle, the priest, Eli, saw her and asked God to grant Hannah her wish. Shortly thereafter, Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son, Samuel. In an act of gratefulness, after giving birth to Samuel, Hannah committed Samuel to serve at the tabernacle with Eli. Little did Eli know at the time that God would raise up Samuel to be a priest in place of his sons. When Eli’s sons had become corrupt and unfit to serve as priests, God worked with Hannah’s fervent worship to raise up Samuel and eventually called Samuel to replace Eli as priest. Samuel ended up being a prophet for Israel and served as the last of the judges.

The Cycle of Sin Continues

[Bible references: Genesis 3; Judges 8:22-27; 17; 1 Samuel 4]

While Eli was priest, there came a time when Israel had to fight the Philistines, a nation with iron instruments that was exceedingly difficult to fight. After Israel was routed in one battle, Eli’s sons thought that the solution for victory was to take the ark with them into battle. They thought that they surely would win the battle if they carried God, whose presence was supposed to be in the ark, into battle. What they didn’t do, however, was to consult with God. Not only did Israel lose again, but Israel also lost the ark itself to the Philistines.

The mistake that Israel made was a mistake as old as Adam and Eve. We would rather have a God that we can handle rather that one we are accountable to. Want wisdom? Don’t wait for God, just eat from the tree. Want to win a battle? Don’t wait for God to lead you, take God (as the ark) with you. One of the previous judges, Gideon, would make an ephod that would become an idol for Israel. Also, in the period of the judges, a priest named Micah, would make an ephod that would also become an idol. One of the convenient things about idols is that while they may not have the power of God, they don’t make uncomfortable demands about changing our lives either.


[1] Lyon, William L. “Between History and Theology: The Problem of H9 Erem in Modern Evangelical Biblical Scholarship”

[2] Rishawy, Derek. “God’s mercies aren’t so new” 

[3] Hill, Preston. “Have Christians Forgotten How to Fight with God?”

Reflect

Joshua was certainly encouraged when the nation crossed the Jordan River on dry land just as the nation crossed the Red Sea on dry land 40 years earlier. When trying to follow God, what encourages you?

Observe

Read Deuteronomy 6:10-12. It is a good thing to have God provide for us, but what dangers are there when God does provide for us?

Reflect

Our culture has traditions like New Years’ Resolutions where we promise to make changes in our lives, yet 85% of resolutions fail.[1] What make us unsuccessful so often?

Observe

Read Deuteronomy 7:1-5.  God certainly had the power to simply wipe out all the inhabitants of the Promised Land. God did many miracles, intervening many times on Israel’s behalf. Why do you think that God had the Israelites carry out those many battles?

Reflect

What have been your conflicting ideas between the Old and New Testaments?

Observe

Read Joshua 6:17-21; 1 Samuel 15:1-3. If you think about Jesus being one part of the moving, brooding, dancing God who invoked violence in the Old Testament, how do you process that?

Reflect

Whether it’s a physical talisman or a ritual procedure or task, we find it easier to call God into the plans we already made than to humble ourselves to His plans. Think of ways that we do this.

Observe

Read Judges 2. The book of Judges is a record of our penchant to turn from God and of his patient faithfulness, continuing to rescue us despite our persistent failure. How does this cycle make you feel?

Reflect

We can get distracted by events around us and lose sight of the fact that God is always working around us, even when things seem to be in turmoil. How can that help us in our daily lives?

Observe

Read Ruth 1-4; Matthew 1:1-17. Think about the travails of Naomi and how God worked in the midst of her troubles to insert a foreign woman into Jesus’ ancestry. What does it mean that Jesus set it up so that non-Jews were part of his human ancestry?

Reflect

What kinds of changes do you need to make in your life in order to reflect the true God and not the “god” you are comfortable with?

Observe

Read Judges 8:22-27; Proverbs 2:1-8. Gideon tried to do a good thing but created a big problem. How can we avoid creating a similar problem?


[1] Tabaka, Marla. “Most People Fail to Achieve Their New Year’s Resolution. For Success, Choose a Word of the Year Instead” Inc.com  http://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/why-set-yourself-up-for-failure-ditch-new-years-resolution-do-this-instead.html

God working through broken individuals and communities

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 5 – Patriarchs

[Bible references: Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 49:8; 58:12; Jeremiah 59:19; Philippians 3:20-21]

Although the all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe is capable of simply doing things by a show of great power and irresistible force,[1] he usually chooses to work through His image-bearers.[2] He can work through individuals or groups, although even when he works through groups it’s typically through individuals within those groups.[3] Most surprising is that even though all his image-bearers have flaws, God has still chosen to do His work within those flaws.[4] Despite our persistent failures, not only does God patiently empower us to fulfill the responsibility of stewardship of Creation that He gave us from the beginning, but He also empowers us to participate in His work of restoring the universe.


[1] Spurgeon, C.H. “The Power of Christ Illustrated by the Resurrection”  19 January 1871 Biblehub biblehub.com/library/spurgeon/spurgeons_sermons_volume_17_1871/the_power_of_christ_illustrated.htm. 

[2] Welchel, Hugh, “Three Key Passages Concerning Stewardship in the Bible” The Institute of Faith, Works & Economics 19 Oct 2016 tifwe.org/stewardship-in-the-bible

[3] Cole, Stephen J. “Lesson 51: How God Uses Ordinary People (Genesis 26:1-35)” Bible.org 29 Aug 2013 bible.org/seriespage/lesson-51-how-god-uses-ordinary-people-genesis-261-35

[4] Wilson, Jarrid, “God Uses Flawed People To Share Hope To a Flawed World” jarridwilson.com 16 Mar 2014 jarridwilson.com/god-uses-flawed-people-to-share-hope-to-a-flawed-world/

Reflect

What does it mean to you that the One who has all knowledge prefers to carry out his plans for us through us who not only have incomplete knowledge but have corrupted intentions?

Observe

Read Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 40:8; 58:12; Philippians 3:20-21. What should our attitude be as God carries out his plans through us?

Turning from shalom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 4 – Deforming the intended direction for creation

[Bible references: Psalm 53:1-3]

Although we try to cling to the hope of God and our final restoration, we, in our sin, face a world that is broken by sin. While waiting for the restoration of creation, we find ourselves continually turning from God and rather towards bringing further destruction into God’s good creation. We seem to be constantly bent on turning from shalom and towards a substitute that gives us pain and despair. The history of the world is filled with the flourishing of evil and injustice. The consequence of choosing to go our own way has put us on a path where we continue to separate ourselves from the source of goodness and shalom. Indeed, we find ourselves on a path of destruction despite God’s continual provision for us as he continuously and unrelenting pursues us and pours out his limitless grace. And so it is, that we find ourselves in a world where both good and evil abound, where the good things God created are corrupted continuing to turn us away from God.[1]

Rampant evil

[Bible references: Genesis 6, 9]

So that we can know what terrible direction we are headed without that intervening grace, God initially allowed his image-bearers to live long lifespans. The long lifespans seemed to postpone the penalty for sin such a long time by delaying the penalty of physical death, that the image-bearers behaved as if there were no consequences for their God-defiant behavior. The result was rampant unrestrained evil that infected nearly everyone, causing God to destroy all but one family. Sadly, even with that severe penalty, it would not be long before our God-defiant behavior would threaten to be our undoing again, but God would continue intervening with grace as He would gradually work out His plan to restore us to Himself beginning with the rainbow as a sign of hope.

Tower of Babel

[Bible references: Genesis 11:1-8; Genesis 12:1-3]

Despite the catastrophic destruction that destroyed all people except Noah and his family, the image-bearers’ defiance would emerge again when, thinking themselves to be wiser than God, they refused to spread out over the earth as God had commanded and then proceeded to build a tower as a monument to themselves. God’s response was very measured. By causing them to speak different languages so that they could no longer communicate with each other, the image-bearers would no longer be able to come together to complete the tower, rather they were now forced to divide into seventy different groups and spread out across the earth as God had intended. This breakup would lead to the creation of different nations – and eventually lead to God’s working out His solution to our predicament by the calling out from one of the nations, one man through whom God would begin His work of restoration.


[1] Brister, Tim. “6 Destructive Ways We Minimize Our Own Sin”

Reflect

Think about some things that should be inherently good but are used for evil purposes.

Observe

Read Gen 3:1. We often know in our mind what God’s instruction is when we are tempted to do our own thing apart from God’s instruction. We somehow find a way to justify our actions by questioning God’s authority. Does this give us a strategy for dealing with temptation?

Reflect

If there were no consequences for bad behavior, what do you think the world would be like?

Observe

Read Genesis 6 and 9. God sent a flood to deal with the rampant sin in the world but it wasnot long after the flood that signs of human rebellion sprung up again in Noah’s family. What kind of trajectory did this indicate for humanity?

Reflect

Even within a family, different experiences cause people to think differently causing conflict. They all use the same words but have different thoughts about what is right. Larger problems occur when people grow up in entirely different environments. When people use different languages, those different languages amplify the differences in how people think. In your own situation, what different cultures do you interact with and how do you process conflicts with people in those cultures?

Observe

Read Genesis 11:4. The construction of the tower at Babel was not a positive development, but God’s plans won’t be thwarted. What confidence does that give us about the difficult situations we see around us today?

Generous and overflowing Shalom

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Deuteronomy 30:9; Psalm 37; 65; 72; 92; Isaiah 9:6; John 10:10; 14:25-31; 20:19-23; Philippians 4:4-9]

The church has a stake in human flourishing. The challenge for the church is to define and promote human flourishing (which we might otherwise describe as human well-being, human happiness) in accordance with biblical teaching, to present and commend its alternative approach to human flourishing in the face of competing cultural visions, and to embody human flourishing in the presence of God amid a culture of death and destruction. Christian theology has a role to play in assisting the church to meet this challenge.[1]

“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there.”[2]

Goodness, generosity and shalom all fit together. We begin with the premise that we are representatives of the Prince of Peace. Scripture is full of encouragement for us to live in peace because it is through shalom that much else flows, including goodness and generosity. Goodness flows out of the shalom which is concerned with the overall well-being of others and is necessarily linked to justice, mercy, and humility – and we are not to be content with helping God to usher in only the minimal amounts of justice, mercy into the world but the fullness that stems from the overflowing goodness of God.

Our Creator and Temple-maker intended for us to enjoy his overflowing love and goodness. He provided us a place of abundance where all our needs could be met, where He had a purpose for us as His stewards and His co-creators and where we could enjoy him and enjoy each other. This overflowing can actually be overwhelming when we consider the breadth, the beauty, the abundance, and the complexity of this temple he has provided. And we can marvel at the breadth, the beauty, the abundance and the complexity of the skills and abilities He has provided for us as his stewards and co-creators. Just look at what He has done and what we have done with what He has given us!


[1] Swain, Scott. “Psalm 19 and human flourishing” Reformation21 http://www.reformation21.org/blogs/psalm-19-and-human-flourishing.php

[2] Lewis, C.S. “Mere Christianity” Samizdat 2014 p. 31

Reflect

In what ways can the shalom of God flow over from our lives to the lives of others?

Observe

Read John 14:25-31; 20:19-23. What are the conditions of the disciples when Jesus offers them His peace?

Brooding, Moving, Dancing

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Dancing In the Kingdom – Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom Chapter 1 – Prelude

[Bible references: Genesis 1; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:19-21; Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 3:20; 1 Peter 5:10]

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth … and the Spirit of God brooded[1] over the face of the waters …

Like a bird sitting on eggs keeping them warm until the eggs would hatch and bring forth new birds, the Spirit hovered, brooded, over the earth ready to bring forth life of all sorts, but particularly creatures that would be like God, creatures that would reflect the character of God: transcendent, loving, wise, fruitful, etc. This is how the story begins, full of anticipation and hope for what must be a grand and wonderful future.

But even before the story begins, we may contemplate another mystery, the mystery of the one person God also being the three persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The early church[2] struggled with this concept and eventually, in the second century, a Christian apologist, Tertullian, coined the term “Trinity” to describe this 3-persons in 1-person concept.

However, that tidy little term can mask over the impossible to understand idea of God being one person and three persons at the same time. There is Greek word available to us that addresses the complexity of this three-in-oneness, “perichoresis” which comes from two Greek words which mean “interpenetration” or “mutual indwelling.” This is meant to describe the interpenetration or mutual indwelling of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“In that regard the term “perichoresis” (meaning “interpenetration,” “circumincession” or “mutual indwelling”) has been used theologically at least since the time of John of Damascus to refer to the way the three divine persons live in joyful, dynamic communion without merging, loss or distinction. It is said to be derived from the Greek term perchoreuo meaning “to dance around.” However, the evidence indicates that the term is derived from the different though similar looking perichoreo which refers to “interpenetration” but does not refer to dancing…. this does not mean that the concept itself is inappropriate, as evidenced by those who appreciate its use in that way.” [3]

While this term may be partly helpful in understanding this impossible to understand concept, there is another word that is very similar to perichoresis which means “to dance around,” which gives us a word picture of our living and complex God in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit not only interpenetrate but interact with one another, in a freewheeling but synchronized dance. This means that, as God’s image-bears, we can reflect the image of the loving, interpenetrating, interacting, and dancing God as we participate in His work of taking care of His Creation and of one another.[4]

This dance which started before Creation, has been joined by God’s image-bearers since the beginning of humanity. It is now our turn. We just need to learn the moves and join the dance.


[1]  Biblehub “Genesis 1:2” Bible Hub biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/1-2.htm Most translations or this phase use the terms “hovering” or “moving,” but there is also a case for using the term, “brooding,” as in a bird sitting on a nest of eggs.

[2] Van Ee, Joshua J. “The Church in the Old Testament” Westminster Seminary California 9 Nov 2017 www.wscal.edu/blog/the-church-in-the-old-testament The term “church” as used in this book will refer to what may more properly be called the “new testament church.” I wish to make that distinction because the term “church” may be properly applied to all of those who are “called out” to follow Yahweh.

[3] Edgar, Brian. “The God Who Plays: A Playful Approach to Theology and Spirituality,” Chapter 9: Kingdom: Playing with God, The Dance of Life Cascade Books 2017 (e-book)

[4] Miller, Darrow. “Perichoresis: Great Dance of God and Creation” Darrow Miller and Friends 16 July 2018 darrowmillerandfriends.com/2018/07/16/perichoresis-great-dance-god-creation/

Reflect

Our logic has limits when it comes to understanding the perichoresis of the Trinity, a one person, dancing community. How can we, as image bearers of God, reflect that one-person community?

Observe

Read Genesis 1.  Think of the Spirit of God hovering, moving and brooding over the earth. In your imagination, think about a spiritual being “giving birth” to physical living things, what would you expect to happen?

Reprise with Variations

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Dancing In the Kingdom – Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom Chapter 1 – Prelude

[Bible references:  Genesis 1; 3:8; Matthew 9:14-15; Romans 8:19-22; 1 Corinthians 15:49; Revelation 21-22]

“The creation of the world seems to have been especially for this end, that the eternal Son of God might obtain a spouse towards whom he might fully exercise the infinite benevolence of his nature, and to whom he might, as it were, open and pour forth all that immense fountain of condescension, love, and grace that was in his heart, and that in this way God might be glorified. [1]

God created the universe for his glory, and within that, humans were created to experience the true joy of living, to bear the fruit of His nature, to reflect His presence. We are designed to be image-bearers of God himself, stewards of the creation He inserted us into while reflecting the very character of God. The exercise of stewardship is seen in the process of “subduing” and “having dominion” over the earth (its creatures and it resources), and in being “fruitful” and filling the earth. God’s initial reaction to creating us was, “It was very good.” His intent was that we would fill and take care of the earth, all the while reflecting His character to each other and to His creation.

In the beginning, heaven and earth were joined at the Garden of Eden. It was a place where the Creator could have communion with his image-bearers and walk in the garden with them. The garden was the perfect place for the image-bearers to develop and begin working out the intended future of filling the earth and ruling over it as co-regents with God.

He gave us unimaginable delight and freedom, but that very freedom He gave us was joined to a responsibility, a responsibility that was wrongly used and caused immense far-reaching damage – damage we could not possibly undo – the whole universe is groaning, waiting for to be restored. Our pride-laden rebellion damaged the relationships between each other, between us and God, between us and the world and even between heaven and earth; but God had a plan from the beginning, a plan which is now underway, to ultimately restore what was lost and undo that damage[2] and bring us to our intended destination – an earth filled with and ruled by image-bearers and where heaven and earth are rejoined so that the image-bearers can walk with God once again.

“Jesus’ own teaching during his brief public career simply reinforced the Jewish picture. He redefined a lot of ideas that were current at the time – notably, of course, kingdom of God itself, explained in many coded parables and symbolic actions that God’s sovereign, saving rule was now breaking in, even though it didn’t look like what his contemporaries had imagined and wanted.”[3]

Ultimately, we will be freed from the bondages of sin and death and all the relationships that are now damaged will be restored. In fact, in a timeline that we cannot fully grasp, God waited from the beginnings of mankind until 2000 years ago to defeat the power of sin and death and begin the process of restoring His kingdom on earth. Then He told us that someday, he will complete that process and he will return in the fullness of his glory to fully restore all things at that time. We just don’t know when that will be.

Our hope looks at the resurrection of Jesus as a harbinger of the resurrection that awaits all those of us who will be united with Him in our own transformed bodies in the new heavens and the new earth.

‘… what is the ultimate Christian hope? …what hope is there for change, rescue , transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present … if the Christian hope is for God’s new creation, for “new heavens and new earth,” and if that hope has already come to life in Jesus of Nazareth, then there is every reason to join the two questions together …God’s kingdom” in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but to God’s sovereign rule coming “on earth as it is in heaven.” [4]

Furthermore, our hope doesn’t ask for us to simply wait for that time when the Kingdom of God is fully restored, but that we can be part of God’s plan to bring the Kingdom of God into our broken world.


[1] Edwards, Jonathan, “Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume Two” (p. 62) SERMON II. THE CHURCH’S MARRIAGE TO HER SONS, AND TO HER GOD. Ed. John E. Smith, Yale University Press, 2009

[2] Bible Project “Pursuing God, Heaven and Earth,” Bible Project www.pursuegod.org/biblical-themes-an-animated-explanation-of-heaven-earth

[3] Wright, N.T. “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church” (p. 18). Harper Collins 2008. Kindle Edition

[4] Wright, N.T. “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church” pp. 4-5 Harper Collins 2008. Kindle Edition

Reflect

Speaking strictly from what we know from science, we seem to be random life forms on a random planet in a random spot in the universe. In that perspective, having an anthropocentric view of the universe seems absurd. But knowing what the Creator of heaven and earth has revealed to us, the universe was designed to be inhabited … by us! How does that change your view of the universe?

Observe

Read Psalm 8; 111; Exodus 8:16-19. Some of us can look at the universe and see the “fingerprints of God.” Why do others of us not draw the same conclusion?