The Bible teaches that God is “the Lord of Hosts.” In Hebrew, this title is translated “Jehovah Sabaoth,” which is one of God’s Old Testament names. The Lord refers to Himself using this title (or Elohim Sabaoth) over 285 times in the Old Testament! This title is used to describe God’s sovereignty over both heaven and earth. God refers to Himself in this way to show that He is not only supremely in control of individuals but is also in control of the groups of individuals that make up armies and nations. The Lord most frequently refers to Himself in this way through the prophets, especially the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. This is because those books document the proclamations of God’s judgments against various people groups and the manner in which God would administer those judgments. Most of those judgments were disciplinary actions of the Lord against His people. The Bible explains that God used entire armies of history’s greatest empires as disciplinary tools. A person trying to train a dog might use a leash to lead and a rolled-up newspaper to discipline. God used entire empires like Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome as one might use a leash and a rolled-up newspaper! God’s control over the nations of the earth is merely the physical evidence of God’s control over spiritual hosts as well. Thus, the people of God can rest assured that His purposes will be fully accomplished because if God is in control of EVERYTHING and EVERYONE, who will oppose Him and His purposes?
The scriptures show that God doesn’t just exercise His sovereignty to discipline His people. God also exercises His supreme control to build His people up. God’s control transcends circumstances. He is able to take instances that seem counterproductive to His purposes and use them for good anyway. This is why God’s people can trust in the proclamation of the Bible that says, “God works ALL THINGS TOGETHER for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” If not for God’s sovereign control, He would not be able to fulfill this promise. This is why God spends so much time in the Bible providing examples of His sovereign control. It is our understanding of God’s sovereignty that builds trust in God to do that which He says. It is one thing for a person to desire to fulfill a promise; but many people have had good desires that were thwarted by unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances. God doesn’t have this weakness. So, when God says something, we can rest assured that it WILL get done!
This is how God will fulfill His promises to the children of Israel. How else could God take a weak and pitiful people and transform them into a great nation that is able to bless all of the families of the earth from such a small part of the world? The testimony of 1 Chronicles 12:1-40 proves that God can pull greatness out of nowhere in order to accomplish His purposes and fulfill His promises. The testimony of 1 Chronicles 12:1-40 documents the means by which David was able to become such a powerful king that had so much success in his military conquests. However, in order to understand God’s work, it is important to remember God’s promises. In Genesis 49:10 the Lord prophesied that He would build up the tribe of Judah in order to establish His own throne as the Messiah King of Israel. There, God swore to raise up a scepter of authority to inaugurate His own seat of authority. David was the man that God first used to begin the fulfillment of this promise. God’s promise for His kingship was more thoroughly explained to David in 2 Samuel Chapter 7, but the proclamation of God in Genesis 49:10 was the first specific mention of the work God desired to do in order to fulfill the promises previously made to Abraham.
The testimony of 1 Chronicles 12:1-40 documents the work that God did to build up David according to His promise. God promised to establish a throne through Judah, and selected David to be the root of His work in Judah. Yet when David was anointed as the first true king of Israel from the tribe of Judah, he was only a shepherd boy. He did not have military training. He did not have experience as a leader. He did not come from a family of established royalty. David was experienced in herding and tending sheep; and through that work, he learned to know and trust the Lord God Almighty. The testimony of 1 Chronicles 12:1-40 doesn’t document work that David did to make himself a great king with a strong military. The testimony of 1 Chronicles 12:1-40 shows the sovereign work of the Lord to build up something plain and pitiful into one of the strongest military forces in history.
The Bible explains that God raised up exceptional men that served as chiefs of David’s army in 1 Chronicles Chapter 11. These men were plain and ordinary men that simply responded to the call of God to follow David. God filled these men with ability and courage to do exceptional things that became well-known all over Israel. The testimony of 1 Chronicles Chapter 12 documents the rest of the individuals that God assembled to build up David. God called men from all over. The scriptures explain that God assembled nearly 350,000 men from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to fight for David. The Lord also raised up nearly 1,300 captains to lead these men, not including the exceptional chiefs that were mentioned in the previous chapter. While the roots of David’s mighty men began in the caves of Israel through the lives of simple, plain, despised, rejected, and foolish men, over time, God added great numbers of well-trained and knowledgeable men.
The Bible shows that God used all sorts of people to assemble the great army that supported the kingship of David. God used foolish men and made them great, strong, courageous, and historic. God also used well trained men from the tribe of Gad to build up David’s resources. God also used massive numbers of men from the tribe of Ephraim and Manasseh. God also called and added experienced military geniuses from the tribe of Issachar to orchestrate strategies for the men. God didn’t only use men of poor reputation, but also highly esteemed men as well. In fact, God even made good of David’s own mistakes and shortcomings to add to David’s forces. When David was being chased by King Saul, David made a foolish mistake to take refuge in the enemy camp of the Philistines. While David was serving the Philistines to protect his life, the Philistines went to war with Saul and Israel. David vowed himself to the allegiance of the Philistine king and put himself in a great position of compromise where he was almost forced to fight against and kill the very men that God appointed him to lead. If not for the intervention of God to remove David from fighting against Israel, David’s kingship might not have ever been received since he would have been responsible for many deaths of his own people.
When this all happened, the Bible explains that many of the people of Manasseh defected to David. They saw the miserable and pitiful position that David was in and had compassion for him. The people of Manasseh saw what the leadership of Saul was causing to happen in Israel, and many of the men of Manasseh sided with David to support his needs and ensure his protection. Thus, God used the foolish mistake and compromise of David as a means to add onto the greatness of his army! David was disciplined by God for his foolish decision and suffered consequences for assisting the Philistines. However, David’s mistake was not greater than God’s grace. Where sin abounds, grace did about much more, and David’s greatness was further established according to God’s supreme control that was motivated by grace.
The testimony of 1 Chronicles 12:1-40 explains that all of these men came to David to support him as king even though it didn’t happen all at once. Recall that David fled from Saul for many years. When Saul died, David was made king, but had to rule from Hebron for seven years because of disagreement about David’s kingship. After those seven years, David moved down to Jerusalem after Joab conquered the land. It is true that God built up a tremendous fighting force to support David, but this was a work that took many years. According to the Bible, God did this work little by little, using His Spirit to compel various individuals and groups of men to follow David at different seasons of David’s life. The Spirit compelled these men to give themselves to David and support his purposes. Over time, men realized that God was in favor of David and helped him in ways that were unique and profound. Over time these men decided that they wanted favor from God and so provided their favor to God’s anointed.
This all goes to show that David didn’t build up his own greatness. David simply received the provision that God gave at the various times that He gave it. God’s provision of men didn’t always appear to be useful and helpful, but it was the least qualified men that seemed to turn out to be the greatest and most helpful. Nevertheless, all of Israel eventually got behind the work that God determined to do through David and all of the men that God provided were used to build up the greatness of Israel through the military victories that came by the leadership of King David. The throne of Judah was established by David, but only on account of the sovereign control that God exercised to give David the people and support he needed in order to be great. God made David’s kingship great in order to lay the foundation of His own great throne. Yet the scriptures show that God used His sovereign control to lay the foundation for His own greatness. David and his mighty men were great simply because they happened to be tools that God used unto His own glory!
The lives of God’s people seem extraordinary in the testimonies of scripture. There are plenty of men and women who experienced circumstances that the average person in human history would never experience. Some of these testimonies are so unusual that many have speculated that they aren’t true. Many of the circumstances of these historical figures seem embellished, exaggerated, and more along the lines of fairy tale. Hence, many people had discredited the truth of scripture, figuring the Bible to be no more than made up stories aimed to inspire certain behaviors. Those who think along these lines are usually those who don’t walk by faith. Those who walk by faith have found that the testimonies of the people of the Bible are not so unusual when a person endeavors to obey the commands of the Almighty God. There have been plenty of people outside of the Bible, that have followed the calling of the Lord, and found their lives in parallel with the people of scripture. Thus, the Bible doesn’t necessarily describe the individuals as extraordinary, but instead, the God who calls, leads, and empowers His people is extraordinary!
The world’s definition of extraordinary, exceptional, and heroic can sometimes seem unusual as well. When news media channels highlight the actions of an extraordinary or heroic individual, usually their accomplishments aren’t in line with the average citizen either. Many times, those we consider as extraordinary and heroic are men and women that were simply going about their business until a set of circumstances required them to do something outrageous and unusual. Those men and women simply responded. The heroes of the Bible aren’t really any different. Their lives may seem overstated sometimes, but the scriptures are clear to show that those considered “mighty men of valor” were plain men that God used to do great things. These men weren’t born with special skills and traits. In fact, it is the plainness of those men that makes their exploits so great. God took “plain” and made it exceptional. Therefore, while many people get hung up on the testimonies of men, they miss the point of examining the beauty of God’s work through men. It is the work of God that makes one extraordinary, not the courage or strength of the individuals that God uses because God desires to use individuals that lack courage and strength.
The testimony of 1 Chronicles 11:20-47 documents the names of “David’s Mighty Men.” These were the men that accompanied David from the time that he fled from the pursuit of King Saul, up until the time David became king and led the children of Israel. These men were faithful to follow and serve David and the children of Israel during the forty years that David ruled, as well as through the time that David hid in caves before he became king. The testimony of 1 Chronicles 11:20-47 lists many men and highlights the instances of a few men, but it is important to recall where all these men came from. The Bible explains that these men were not trained soldiers. These men were not the most revered of Israel when they left their homes to follow David. These men were the foolish and base people of Israel. These men were the rejects of Israel. When David needed help and comfort from the senseless attacks of Saul, God sent these men. These men were nothing much but were loyal to David and his purposes. The Lord used these men in mighty ways though their personal testimonies didn’t reflect strength, honor, or valor.
The scriptures highlight the reputations of two men in this portion of scripture. The first man was Abishai. Abishai was the brother of Joab, the commander and captain of David’s army. Abishai had a strong reputation because of one particular instance where he immediately garnered the respect of those around him. The Bible states that Abishai was able to kill three hundred men with his spear in one instance. The details of this battle aren’t provided in the scriptures. It is circumstances such as these that cause skeptics to doubt the validity of Biblical testimony. However, such doubt only comes out of an unwillingness to acknowledge God as the Author of life’s circumstances. It would seem impossible for one man to destroy three hundred others with only a spear. This is to assume that this sort of victory was achieved by a mere man. Abishai was not a superhero. Abishai was a foolish man just like the others; but was a mighty man of valor in the hands of the Lord God Almighty. It was not the skill, courage, or wisdom of Abishai that ensured his victory. It was the providential care of God that enabled Abishai.
Abishai was one of the men that God called to protect the man that He appointed as king of Israel – the root of the Messianic line. God did not use Abishai because of his merits. God used Abishai in spite of his merits. God did not enable Abishai to the sort of victory documented in the Chronicles because of his strength. God enabled Abishai to achieve his victory in order to protect the integrity of His promises made to David. The victory of Abishai was simply one of the many things that God did to ensure the fulfillment of His promises to David. Abishai was one of many tools that God used to exalt David according to His will and purposes to reveal the Messiah much later. Abishai was simply willing to respond to God’s call to be used in this way, likely not knowing that the details of his calling would require him to fight three hundred men. Nevertheless, Abishai was considered a “mighty man of valor” because he was willing to engage in EVERY work that his calling required so that God’s purposes would be accomplished. God leveraged Abishai’s willingness and humility to do a GREAT work that earned Abishai a great reputation. Nevertheless, the Bible explains that a mighty man of valor is not one that foolishly tries to show strength by pursuing and jumping into impossible battles. Instead, a mighty man of valor is the fool who follows the calling of God and submits to ANY manner in which the Lord would use them to fulfill the purposes He’s made concerning His own revelation.
The testimony of 1 Chronicles 11:20-47 also highlights the circumstances of a man named Benaiah. The Bible explains that Benaiah was the son of another mighty man, and the grandson of a mighty man. Though Benaiah was a foolish and base man like the others that followed David from the beginning, Benaiah came from a family of people that demonstrated their faithfulness to various causes in profound ways. This shows that willingness to embrace the Lord’s calling regardless of the expense is a heritage that can be (and should be) passed down from generation to generation. Benaiah was considered one of the elite men of valor because of his testimony. Benaiah had killed two “lion-like heroes of Moab.” Benaiah had also killed a large and powerful Egyptian soldier by taking the Egyptian’s own weapon and killing him with it. It is also written that Benaiah fought a lion while in the snow and was able to kill it.
Here, it is important to recognize the parallels of Benaiah’s testimony compared to David’s testimony. Both David and Benaiah fought foreign champions that were like giant animals. Both David and Benaiah used the weapons of those men to kill their opponents. Both David and Benaiah found themselves in scuffles with wild beasts and were victorious. However, when David testified of the victories he had over the wild beasts, he confessed that the Lord God Almighty was the deliverer of victory. When David went out to fight Goliath, he confessed that the same God who delivered him from the wild beast would deliver victory against the Philistine giant – the Lord God Almighty. David did not take credit for his victories that seemed like myths. David acknowledged the unusual nature of his life and exploits. However, David also recognized that his life was extraordinary because the hand of the One True Living God was over his life. The same could be said of Benaiah.
Benaiah was not victorious over lions and giants because he was a well-trained soldier. He was the opposite. Benaiah was simply a man that responded to the calling of the Lord and received the supernatural guidance, protection, and provision of the One that governed his life. Notice that God uses people in similar ways. While the testimony of David might seem like a myth, it is unusual that another historically documented individual that served David experienced similar “mythical” situations. This is not coincidence. This is simply the pattern of God’s work. Thus, Benaiah was not a mighty man of valor because of his own strength and courage. Benaiah was a mighty man of valor because he subjected himself as a tool and instrument of the Lord God Almighty. Additionally, Benaiah was an exceptional man of valor with a higher reputation as the rest because his life testimony followed in parallel of the king. Those whose lives follow in step with the king are able to enjoy the reputation that the king himself has. Since the testimony of 1 Chronicles Chapter 11 uses David as a prophetic picture of Christ in some areas, the testimony of Benaiah shows that those whose lives follow parallel to the King of kings are considered mighty men of valor and given the credibility of the Lord Himself! Thus, God does not seek people that the world deems as strong, courageous, or wise. God simply seeks men that will respond to the call to “deny self, pick up the cross, and follow Him.” Those who do so will find their lives in sync and in parallel with the testimony of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and will be revered as honorable in the kingdom of God!
As Christians, we are supposed to rely on the Bible – the holy Word of God – to identify our purpose, understand how to fulfill that purpose, and to understand God’s perspective concerning that purpose. The Bible is our life. The Bible should be the means by which we understand all things according to God’s wisdom. There is a challenge in that the world seeks to imitate God’s wisdom and redefine things according to a fleshly manner of thinking. Biblical truths become confused. People become distracted by the confusion. In this process of this, the simple concepts of God’s wisdom become corrupted and perverted by human influence and “creative interpretations.” This is how concepts like “love” become such a distraction to people that desire to know the Lord even though the Bible teaches that God is the essence of “love.” The scriptures adequately define concepts like this and it is the responsibility of the Christian to look to the Bible to understand God’s perspective concerning these important matters.
One of the concepts of life that has become confused over time is the issues surrounding strength, courage, and valor. The world makes heroes seem inhuman many times so that people must strive to do unusual things in order to be considered strong, courageous, or heroic. The Bible identifies these concepts much more simply. God’s definition of a “mighty man of valor” is much simpler in nature when we identify the simple attributes of the men that were classified this way. The testimony of 1 Chronicles 11:15-19 identifies men that served King David before he was king and while he was king. These men are generally referred to as “David’s Mighty Men of Valor.” If there is a way to be referred to in the Bible, this is perhaps one of the coolest!
The scriptures begin by documenting the chiefs of David’s mighty men. These chief men earned their stripes while they served David before he was anointed as king, while he was fleeing from the pursuit of King Saul who sought David’s life out of jealousy. During that time, David was forced to flee from his hometown and live in caves in order to protect his life. When certain men heard about David’s circumstances, many of them left their homes too in order to dwell with David in caves and serve his needs. The Bible describes these men as base men. They were men that had bad reputations. They were rejects in their communities and fools in the eyes of their peers. When David faced difficulties in life, these were the men that God surrounded David with. These were the men that God called to serve the future king of Israel. These men were not trained soldiers. These men were not the most intelligent of Israel. These men were not the best looking. These men were people that were difficult to bear and simply responded to the calling God placed upon their lives to serve the needs of David, a man dwelling in caves whose life was being threatened.
Over the course of that season of David’s life, these men developed close relationships with David. These men bonded together as they helped one another survive the elements of their environment, including wild animals, enemies of Israel, and the pursuit of King Saul. The testimony of 1 Chronicles 11:15-19 documents some of the exploits and victories that some of these men endured when they responded to God’s call to follow David. One of the first of these victories is a testimony of three men that broke through a garrison of Philistine soldiers that had set up a stronghold in Bethlehem. These three men heard David yearning for a drink of water from a well in Bethlehem. It was not as if the water in Bethlehem tasted better or had supernatural powers. David’s longing for water from Bethlehem reflected David’s desire to partake of the things of the Lord. Bethlehem was territory that should have been Israel’s. Bethlehem was a city in the region of Judah, the hometown of David. David simply desired to enjoy the benefits that God intended His people to have. David simply desired to possess that which God ordained for His people. David wanted the will of the Lord and wanted to enjoy the benefits of God’s purposes. David’s circumstances were preventing that and he was discouraged by that reality.
When these three men learned of David’s longing, the Bible explains that they risked their life in order to get some water from the middle of the Philistine encampment in Bethlehem. Three men took it upon themselves to fulfill the desires of their leader and king. Though the mission required courage, the courage the men demonstrated was motivated by their passionate desire to serve the needs and desires of their king. They wanted for David the things that David wanted. When they referred to David as their “lord,” they legitimately considered David their master. They learned to appreciate the things of their master and made their life pursuit to fulfill the desires of their master. They were not just soldiers. These men were servants and sought to please their lord. They were even willing to risk their lives in order to do so.
Here, it is important to recognize the spiritual parallel, which is why this testimony is placed in the Bible. Here, a mighty man of valor is not a person that simply goes into battle to face impossible odds in order to feel good about themselves or receive praises of men. Here, a mighty man of valor is one that makes the desires of the king to be their own desires. A mighty man of valor is one that makes their life pursuit to be the fulfillment of their master’s purposes, no matter the cost. In this testimony, David is a picture of Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords. The three mighty men that forsook their lives in order to fulfill the desire of the king is a parallel to Christians. The Bible identifies these men as “mighty men of valor” because they forsook their lives in order to fulfill the desire of their king according to the promises of the Father. Likewise, a Christian should forsake their own lives in order to fulfill the desires of Jesus according to the eternally unconditional promises of the Father.
When David saw what these men had done, he was extremely humbled. David did not drink the water that the men brought, but instead poured it out onto the ground. David didn’t do this to slight the men or to belittle the effort they put forth. David’s actions didn’t make the risk of the three men a vain thing. David appreciated the efforts of the men, but realized that a drink of water from Bethlehem while still in bondage to his circumstances was not equal to the fulfillment of God’s promises. David realized that it would not be right for him to enjoy the benefits of God’s promises on his own, drinking the water brought for him, while the rest of his men suffered, took on risks, and remained thirsty. David did not want to exalt himself. David did not want to take on benefits that others couldn’t enjoy. Though he was the leader and the king, he did not exalt himself to special privileges. Though David resembled Jesus in this testimony, he did not exalt himself as Jesus. Rather, David humbled himself to endure the difficulties he was experiencing. David continued on with the hope that he AND his men would all be able to enjoy the water of Bethlehem together at the time when God would give them back that land and they would be able to go home.
Though this portion of scripture highlights the victories of David’s men taking on a whole Philistine garrison as just three men, David’s humility is also a revelation of God’s definition of a hero. A mighty man of valor is not just someone who accomplishes something difficult. According to the Bible, a mighty man of valor is one that knows the eternally unconditional promises of God and endures whatever extent of difficulty required until the Lord Himself fulfills His promises in the manner that He desires as proclaimed in the Word. A mighty man of valor is one that humbles themselves to be a mere servant of the Lord though their worldly title might enable certain authority and privilege. A mighty man of valor is one that endures difficulty as a servant of God, equal to God’s other servants in meekness, in order to enjoy the benefits of God’s work when it is completed properly by His own hand. A mighty man of valor forsakes the luxuries and privileges of this life in order to serve the needs and desires of the King of kings and Lord of lords. A mighty man of valor is one that despises the things of this life in order to fulfill the intents and desires of the King concerning eternal life according to God’s promises. Notice that these men were not trained for this. They were not special men that had special talents. They were base men that simply loved their master. This is what God considers strong, courageous, and heroic.
The Lord is able to do some pretty amazing things in order to fulfill His eternally unconditional promises! The history of the world confirms that the Lord has provided great victories to His people over the ages in order to enable His people to dwell in the manner that He determines as declared in His Word. Specifically, the children of Israel have experienced a number of victories and defeats on account of the work that the Lord does to fulfill His promises. When the Bible refers to God’s sovereign control to do these types of things, He often refers to Himself as Jehovah Sabaoth – the Lord of hosts. This title refers to God’s supreme control over “armies” (a host refers to an army). This idea teaches that God is able to control and manipulate all of the world’s most powerful armies and military forces. People throughout the ages have feared motivated and trained men with weapons. God’s identity as the Lord of hosts teaches that the Lord God Almighty is in charge of these people too. The scriptures show that God is able to use entire nations and their armies like a parent might use an object to discipline their child. Likewise, God is able to enable His people to overcome major nations and armies, even with the odds seem against them. God controls who wins and who loses, and the Bible explains that each victory and defeat is with special purpose according to His plans to fulfill His promises.
In 1 Chronicles 11:1-9 the Bible explains the events that took place after the terrible death of King Saul. The scriptures explain that David became king but had opposition in Israel for some time. When Saul died, one of Saul’s remaining sons desired to be king. Since the custom and tradition for kings was that the son king was supposed to take the king’s place, many people objected to the idea of David being king. David was ordained as king of Israel long before, even while Saul was king. The death of Saul was merely the event that had to take place in order for God’s original purpose to be fulfilled. In Genesis Chapter 49 God predicted that Israel’s true king would come from the tribe of Judah, and his descendant would be the Messiah. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin and could not be the fulfillment of that prophecy, nor could his son. David was the man that God selected and appointed to be the fulfillment of that promise but the children of Israel did not immediately buy into the idea.
The scriptures explain that David remained in a city called Hebron for seven years while Israel disagreed about his kingship. Saul’s son ruled over all of the people with the exception of the people of Judah. The testimony of 1 Chronicles 11:1-9 explains that eventually the kingdom was unified under David. The opposition of David being king was distilled after seven years. Eventually the people realized the divine appointment of David. The people agreed that David was the one that made Israel great. Though Saul was king, David was the one that led the children of Israel in battle against the Philistines and brought great victories to the land. Eventually, the people recognize that God called David to be a “shepherd” over the children of Israel. It took time, but the humble submission of David eventually took the hearts of the people captive so that they were willing to follow the leadership of David as their shepherd according to God’s will. This timing of these events shows that God’s will is eventually fulfilled even though it may take some time and seem as if God’s promises are not coming to pass.
The Bible testifies that the elders of Israel eventually came together to confer with one another that David was supposed to be king. They were going to break from the traditions and customs of the pagans that surrounded them in terms of how their kings were selected. They recognized that the prophet Samuel had anointed David as king long before, and thus, they were finally ready to recognize the supernatural work and appointment of God concerning the leader of the people. After seven years, the elders of Israel were ready to acknowledge and heed the Word of the Lord concerning their king. When this took place, David was compelled to move from Hebron into Jerusalem. The scriptures explain that the city of Jerusalem was not yet the territory of the children of Israel. God commanded the generation that followed Joshua into the Promised Land to conquer ALL of the people in it. Yet the Bible explains that the children of Israel relented in many areas so that the native inhabitants were still dwelling in many regions that God appointed to Israel.
The city of Jerusalem was one of those regions. The Bible explains that the region was still called “Jebus” because the Jebusites were dwelling there. David clearly communicated to the people that he planned to move Israel’s capitol to that city, but the people objected. Therefore, David put out a decree among the mighty men in Israel that whoever could overtake the city would be made his chief captain. The Bible explains that Joab the son of Zeruiah was able to overcome the Jebusites according to God’s plans and purposes. The city was then named “the City of David,” and here in this portion of scripture is also called “Zion.” David built up a stronghold there and he and Joab repaired and built up the city to be the nation’s capital.
Here, it is important to recognize some of the titles that are associated with Jerusalem in order to understand the significance of Joab’s victory over the city. When consider the full context of the Bible and God’s promises to the children of Israel concerning the revelation of Messiah, the reference to “the City of David” always has strong Messianic implications. In other words, when scripture calls Jerusalem “the City of David,” it is because God is speaking in the context of His promises to “bless all of the families of the earth” through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The reference to “the City of David” refers to the work God swore upon Himself to do in order to build up an everlasting throne from the tribe of Judah. This throne would be the righteousness of the people. This throne would uphold the scepter of supreme authority as a lion according to Genesis Chapter 49. This authority figure would come in the brightness of God’s holy glory according to Numbers 24:17. Later, God would explain that the Messiah would be David’s own descendant. Therefore, though Jerusalem is called, “the City of David,” it is only to refer to the promises of the Messiah that are fulfilled through the bloodline of David.
The promises of the Messiah are not merely Jewish promises. God’s Messianic promises deal with Israel first, but ultimately speak of salvation for Jews AND Gentiles. The word “Messiah” refers to the Father’s “Anointed One” that is appointed to fulfill the Father’s eternally unconditional promises to the world. These promises were fundamentally communicated on the first day of creation when God declared “let there be light” in order to overcome and destroy the works and effects of darkness. The promise of the Messiah was further explained in Genesis 3:15 when God assured mankind that He would “bruise the head of the serpent” through “the Seed of the woman.” There God taught that He would take the form of flesh to destroy the devil and his works of darkness. As the scriptures continue, they elaborate on the details of the identity of the Anointed One. The Bible ultimately explains that God Himself is the Messiah, but swore to take the form of flesh in order to be “the Blessing” from Israel to rule as King of kings from the throne of David. When the Bible mentions “the City of David,” these are the promises that come with that reference.
Additionally, the Bible refers to Jerusalem as “Zion.” This Hebrew word translates into the English phrase “parched place.” This is a prophetic reference that describes the promise of God to restore His people from sin, death, and hell. When the Bible refers to Jerusalem as “Zion” it is again, always referring to the city in a Messianic context. The “parched place” is a reference to the spiritual depravity of God’s people. Thus, since God appointed the capital city of His people to be in the “parched place” God shows that His aim is to deal with the center and root of Israel’s problems. Since God promised that He would dwell in Zion Himself as their Messiah King, the reference to “Zion” refers to God’s purpose to quench the spiritual thirst of His people. God’s people, as we are now, are “parched,” meaning that we are deprived of water, health, and satisfaction. It is not until we drink freely from the water of life that comes from Jesus Christ – the Messiah King of Israel – that our “parched” condition is changed. Jerusalem is referred to as “Zion” to remind the people that God’s promise is bigger than fertile land. God’s promise of a king was to bless His people with fertile hearts that bear fruit unto His glory according to the salvation His Messiah brings!
This is why these victories are so profound. It is not such a simple thing that the people eventually acknowledged the divine appointment of David as king of Israel and desired their capital city to be in Jerusalem. It is not so simple that Joab just went in and took it over. It is not so simple that Joab and David restored and built up the city that has been controversial to the world ever since. The historical significance and controversy of Jerusalem is not coincidence either. God did this work because of the promises that God made. The manner in which God did His work and the ways that He described it are important lessons that the Lord teaches about the bigger picture of His eternally unconditional promises. The work of the Lord doesn’t only reveal His almighty attributes, but also explains the manner in which God exercises His power. He flexes His strength and power to fulfill the promises He made to provide forgiveness, restoration, and eternal life unto those who desire it from Him. The conquest of Jerusalem was one major step in God’s plan to fulfill that promise!
The judgments of God are no joke! There are many that take consequence and the promise of God’s judgment too lightly and find out the hard way that the Bible is absolutely true. The scriptures repeatedly explain that God will not be mocked. He is a jealous God that takes great offense against that which seeks to separate His people from Himself. God expresses this righteous jealousy through anger and wrath against both spiritual forces and the people that invite these evils into their lives. Those who live according to their own standards of righteousness are those who live in the likeness of the devil and those who follow him. Those who live by their own standards are those who ultimately reject God’s holiness and righteousness, figuring their own ways to suffice. These people, like the devil, are enemies of God and the Bible explains that God will deal with these people accordingly. The scriptures show that God does not find joy in the work He does to judge the wicked and self-righteous but is willing to do what it takes to preserve the spiritual integrity of those who seek God’s forgiveness. The Lord provides MANY opportunities for the wicked to receive God’s forgiveness, but when those people continually reject God’s mercy, He will often ensure that the consequences of the wicked are delivered in a way that not only serves to punish, but also send a message to those who remain.
This candid truth concerning God’s judgment is clearly illustrated through the miserable ending of King Saul’s testimony. In 1 Chronicles 10:1-14 the Bible recounts the end of Saul’s life that was previously documented in 1 Samuel 31:1-13. The testimony begins by stating that the Philistines warred against the King Saul and the children of Israel. The testimony of 1 Samuel explains that God used the Philistines as instruments of His punishment against the children of Israel. King Saul was a man of great position and privilege, but denied the grace that God bestowed upon him. To understand the magnitude of grace that God gave to Saul, it is important to remember where Saul came from as a man before he was made king.
When God sent the prophet Samuel to find Saul and anoint him as king, Saul admitted that he was a man from the least of the families from the smallest of tribes in Israel. Recall that the genealogies of 1 Chronicles documented the grace that God gave to the tribe of Benjamin. The testimony of the Book of Judges explained that the people of Benjamin were committing great evils and were judged by God so that only six hundred men remained. The tribe of Benjamin should have been totally wiped out, but God had mercy on them in order to remain faithful to His own promises to Israel. Shortly after God spared the tribe of Benjamin, God selected the least of men from the least of families from the least of the tribes in Israel to be the first king in Israel. Saul had no business being king if not for God’s appointment. Saul had no qualifications. Saul had no merits. Saul had no right. Yet, God appointed Saul as king, enabled him as king, and led him as king. Saul’s response to God’s grace was not good.
The testimony of 1 Chronicles 10:1-14 ends by explaining why Saul died in the manner that he did. The Bible testifies that Saul denied the Lord and sought to live his life his own way. Though God had appointed Saul to a position of privilege, Saul did not thank the Lord. Though God led Saul in the manner of His righteousness to do well, Saul did things his own way instead. Though God enabled Saul to have great victories and protected him from Israel’s enemies, Saul boasted in his own strength and relied on his own wisdom. Since Saul had little affection for the Lord, he spent most of his time figuring ways to indulge himself with the desires of his own heart. As he did so, he grew distant from the Lord. When a person distances themselves from the Lord living in self-righteousness, that person will inevitably be consumed in darkness since God Himself is light. Saul ended up consumed in darkness, and when he sought counsel, he did not go to the Lord God Almighty. He had grown accustomed to doing his thing and instead sought a medium. Saul rejected the provision, providence, wisdom, and righteous leadership of the Lord and pursued the ways of the world to solve his problems.
God was not only displeased with this particular action, but with all of Saul’s conduct that led him to seek spiritual counsel from evil people. It was not like Saul was a swell guy up until the moment he consulted with a medium. Saul’s pursuit of worldly spiritual counsel was representative of a heart that had departed from the Lord long before. The testimony of 1 Chronicles explains that Saul had been unfaithful to the Lord. Saul had not trusted the Lord long before his visit with the medium. Saul had not believed in the goodness and grace of God for a long time, figuring that his circumstances were simply the effects of good fortune or his own well-doing. The testimony of 1 Chronicles states that Saul did not keep the Word of the Lord. This means that Saul didn’t consider God’s laws and statutes. In other words, Saul didn’t have the righteous standards of God in his mind and heart. Saul was not making decisions in his life based on the righteous declarations of God. Saul was not weighing his decisions against God’s Word to see if his motives and works would have been pleasing to God. Saul did things that he determined were right and good in his own mind in order to gratify his own personal purposes and ambitions, regardless of the purposes God had for him. Saul received the grace of God and sought to abuse it for selfish gain, and in the process, rejected the righteousness of God from being a motivating factor in his life.
Saul did not inquire of the Lord. The errors of Saul are errors that EVERYONE experiences. All fall short of the glory of God. None are righteous, no not one. However, the Law of God explains God’s righteousness concerning His mercy. The commands of God reveal God’s’ willingness to forgive and instruct God’s people on the proper manner to receive God’s forgiveness. Since all people inevitably fail, God provided a prescription to deal with failure. When the Bible says that Saul didn’t inquire of the Lord, the scriptures explain that Saul didn’t seek to deal with his failure God’s way. Saul denied the offer of God’s forgiveness. Saul figured he could clean up his own messes and deal with his own issues. Saul never considered the magnitude of God’s righteousness and holiness, figuring that his efforts to make his life better would be good enough in the end. He was wrong. God warned Saul over and over again, but Saul never “inquired of the Lord” in humility to seek the forgiveness and favor of the Lord. Thus, Saul paid a great price that communicated a STRONG message to those who would seek to live like Saul did.
The testimony of 1 Chronicles 10:1-14 explains that Saul was killed in the battle with the Philistines at Gilboa. Saul was shot through by archers and tried to escape in his chariot. Knowing that he would eventually die of his wounds, Saul tried to take the easy way out and asked his armorbearer to kill him with a sword so that he wouldn’t become a wounded prisoner of the Philistines and be subjected to further torture. The armorbearer refused to kill Saul. Saul then took it upon himself to end his own life by falling on his own sword. When Saul’s armorbearer saw Saul do this to himself, he became discouraged and took his own life as well. The Bible states that three of Saul’s sons also died that day in the same battle, including Jonathan, the beloved friend of King David. The testimony of 2 Samuel Chapter 1 explains that Saul was unsuccessful in killing himself and suffered a little longer with arrow wounds as well as the wound from his own sword. He was later the recipient of a mercy kill from a young Amalekite man that happened to walk by.
When the Israelites heard that Saul and his sons were dead, they were discouraged and afraid and fled the battle. The Philistines captured a large territory and the children of Israel were deflated. The Philistines later combed through the battlefield to plunder the dead and came across the bodies of Saul and his sons. Some of the mighty men of Israel were able to recover the bodies of Saul and his sons later, but not until after the corpse of Saul was utterly shamed and humiliated. The Philistines had cut off Saul’s head and placed it on a steak in the temple of their god Dagon. Recall that Dagon was the god that the Lord God Almighty had shamed when the Philistines figured they could steal the Ark of the Covenant. The presence of God caused the statue of Dagon to fall on its face in a prostrate position before the Ark one day. When the Philistines picked their statue back up, the Lord caused it to fall again, but the second time God dismembered the head and hands of the statue. At that point the Philistines were terrified and sent the Ark back to the children of Israel. Though the One True Living God had previously shamed the Philistine god, the Philistines shamed the king of Israel by placing his severed head in the midst of their statue like a trophy. When the mighty men of Israel recovered the body of Saul and his sons, they buried them in their land, but Saul did not have his head.
The manner of Saul’s death shows that God will allow those who deny and reject Him to suffer a brutal extent of shame; not only in consequence while living, but also in the circumstances of death. Saul denied the Lord God Almighty, and so God gave Saul over to the ways of the world that he desired instead. It was the people who lived according to self-righteousness that dislodged Saul’s head and placed it as a trophy in front of a manmade statue. The allure of the world and philosophy of self-righteous thinking seems good to the flesh, but the suffering of Saul in his death and shortly after shows that it is all a lie. The fate of those who deny the mercy and grace of God ALWAYS ends in shame through the consequences associated with pursuing darkness instead of light.
There is a commonly known Biblical that God is a God of order. He exercises His wisdom and righteousness to make good decisions concerning His providential plans. God always has a plan and His plans are always fulfilled to perfection. His plans are intended to benefit His people through the praises they offer unto Him in recognition of His wonderful works. It is usually not until AFTER God’s purposes are completed in us that we are able to marvel and rejoice over the impeccable timing and execution of works that we see God did to achieve His purpose. It is usually then that we are able to see how God had things in line all along, even though there might have been moments or seasons where things seemed chaotic. Consider God’s work of creation in Genesis. God saw the original condition of “the earth” and was displeased with it. He described the world as dark, formless, and void. Today, the world does not resemble that condition anymore. While there is darkness or sorts that God will ultimately overcome for good, the sun shines brightly. The world’s systems and processes that enable life continue to function properly according to God’s ordination. Science is merely the observation of God’s wisdom and order (when science examines life honestly). Those who follow the Lord according to His commands clearly understand His purposes so that the world is no longer vain and void. This all goes to show that when we trust in the Lord’s superior wisdom and righteousness, and submit to His ordinances by faith, things work out well as God intends.
This principle is broadly demonstrated through the genealogies of the people who repopulated the region of Judah after the Babylonian exile. The testimony of 1 Chronicles 9:1-44 reviews the names of many men and families that God specially called and motivated to depart from Babylon and reenter Judah in order to rebuild and restore the land according to His purposes and promises. The genealogy is not only helpful to mention the names of these families to honor their response to God’s calling, but also is helpful to mention the duties that they undertook once they arrived in the land. Recall that when the Babylonians entered into Judah seventy years before that they made the land an utter desolation according to God’s judgment. In fact, the genealogy begins by making mention of God’s judgment through the deportation of God’s people. This way, upon remembering the men and women that lived in Israel, it was also well noted that many were kicked out of the Promised Land for disciplinary reasons. Upon remembering this tragedy, God’s people had the opportunity to continually remember and reflect upon the reality of God’s judgments when His people oppose Him. The curses of Deuteronomy Chapter 28 originally warned the people of God that unfaithfulness and wickedness would result in terrible consequences. The documentation of God’s judgment through Babylon that was listed in the beginning of the genealogy shows that God is faithful to fulfill those judgments when His people provoke Him to.
The genealogy explains that there were not many that were called to depart from Babylon and restore Judah. There were families from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as well as some of the families from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh that were dwelling around Jerusalem before their ancestors were deported. The Bible is also helpful to show that many of the Levites, specifically the priests, were in attendance with that group that went back into the land. Here, the Bible shows the importance of God’s appointed ministers being a part of the work that is done in the name of the Lord. The scriptures show that the Levites were a critical part of His plans for the children of Israel. How could the people go back into the land in order to reestablish their cultural and spiritual identity in the Lord without the people that God appointed to head up that work? If the people were commanded to rebuild the temple, who would administrate the temple if not the priests? Who would perform the sacrifices? Who would prepare the offerings? Who would administrate entrance and the ordinances and statues of the rest of God’s law? The presence of the Levites and the priests was a critical part of God’s work to restore. He not only commanded the people to perform certain tasks when getting back to Judah, but also equipped them with the right team to ensure they were able to fulfill the task to completion.
The genealogy explains that the priests that went back into Judah had ancestors that previously worked in the tabernacle before Solomon’s temple was built. This is an important detail to include because the people that left Babylon to go back to Judah would find that Babylon had destroyed the temple. There was no temple for this generation either. Knowing that their ancestors once served the Lord in the absence of a temple is encouraging to the work of those who are called to serve the Lord. The service of the Lord doesn’t require a building; and even when certain duties do require a building, the tabernacle served as a temporary solution to engage the people of God. The history of Israel past Levites and priests shows that God always provided a means to serve Him according to His commands, even when the location of that service was not the ultimate place of desire. God’s plans always enable God’s people to do that which is called of them, even if the means by which they do that work don’t resemble the completed vision for God’s plans. Those who serve in lesser means end up providing a good example that God’s glory is not limited to the location or scope of work that service is performed.
The genealogy then goes on to explain the various types of work that the people did as the temple was being built and when it was finished. The scriptures show that some were appointed as guards of the gate at the entrances of the temple complex. Some were porters that were charged to carry and transport things around. Some were called to prepare sacrifices, some were called to slaughter sacrifices, some were called to prepare the environment. The scriptures list the names of men that were called to do these various types of work and show that God was well pleased with them because they did the work they were called to do faithfully. The Bible shows that each man’s duty was not intrusive to another man’s duty. Each man had his own responsibility to do a simple task in a specialized way. Each job was detailed for a specific purpose. Some of the jobs were simple in nature while others had complex jobs. Some men had two jobs to do since some of the responsibilities were part-time, and the rest of their day was spent singing praises unto the Lord. The Bible explains that the service of the temple was a 24/7 job, including the signing of praises unto the Lord. When each man was humble and trusting of the Lord to do their job to the best of their ability, the functionality of the temple was a well-oiled machine that glorified the Lord greatly by exalting His holiness and righteousness.
When the people left Babylon and went back to Judah, they experienced great hardships; some were self-inflicted while others came in the form of opposition from jealous men. The hardships were so intense and crippling to God’s plans that the Lord sent two prophets within just a few months’ time to stir up hearts of His people to engage in the work that He ordained for them. History shows that the work wasn’t easy. Though God’s plans were perfect and the work was well distributed, the people had a hard time executing. Nevertheless, the scriptures show that when God’s people responded by faith to the simple commands that God gave – each doing the individual job God gave to the best of their ability with focused determination and a humble appreciation for the privilege to serve God – things flowed in a way that was encouraging and edifying. The people were pleased with the results of seeing how God’s plans fitted together when the people endeavored to follow them according to God’s Word without question or amendment. Should God’s people look at the simple commands of His Word and each submit to the position that God has ordained to glorify Him a certain way, history shows that the people of God are satisfied as individuals and collectively.
The Bible teaches that God is merciful and gracious to offer His power to those who desire it so that they can be redeemed from the bondage of sin, death, and hell. The scriptures teach that all people fall short of the glory of God and cannot inherit the glory of His kingdom without a supernatural change that comes as a result of forgiveness of sins. The Bible teaches that none are righteous and all are in need of God’s forgiveness in order to escape the judgment that He swore to administer against darkness and all of the children of darkness. Those who do not receive God’s offer of forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ remain as children of darkness (since God is light and there is no darkness in Him) and by extension, enemies of God. The scriptures candidly proclaim that God will destroy all of His enemies. However, God is not willing that any should perish, but instead that all would come to repentance. God offers forgiveness because He would rather His creation live rather than die. God extends mercy and grace because He wants people to enjoy the benefits of His goodness, not suffer His wrath in rebellion against Him through self-righteousness.
For this reason, the Bible shows that the Lord continually reveals Himself to those who are poor in spirit, weak, base, and worthless in the world’s eyes. It is the people who are rejected by the world that God seeks to restore unto His glory. It is those who are not prideful in their worldly identity, accomplishments, and self-righteousness that God loves to restore. This is not to say that God doesn’t offer His forgiveness to everyone, but instead that God recognizes that it is the meek of the world that have little of the world that are the ones who actually respond to His revelation.
An example of this truth is illustrated through the second part of the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin. In 1 Chronicles 8:1-40 the Bible documents much more of the descendants of Benjamin in much greater detail. The challenge is that most of the names that are mentioned are people that we have little historical knowledge of. There aren’t many people in this genealogy that are found in other places of scripture. For this reason, it becomes difficult to understand the significance of each individual. Yet, it is the absence of those details that explains God’s purpose for this genealogy. The specific individuals of the tribe of Benjamin were not God’s focal point in this genealogy. Recall that scripture is intended to reveal the character, nature, and purposes of God, not the people He uses. The people He uses are merely tools in the hand that is supposed to be the focal point of all scripture. Therefore, when we look at the genealogy of Benjamin, we can examine the big picture of God’s work from the first name mentioned until the last, consider the greater context of their history, and see that this genealogy provides compelling evidence that God loves to redeem, rebuild, and restore those who are diminished and debased.
The genealogy begins following the descendants of Benjamin up to a man named Ehud. This man Ehud is believed to be the same Ehud that served as a judge during the time of the judges before Israel had a king ruling over them. Ehud was the second judge in the kingdom of Israel. The testimony of Judges Chapter 3 explains that God enabled the Moabites to harass and oppress the children of Israel on account of their sin. The children of Israel had begun to rebel against the Lord and so the Lord sent the Moabites to dominate the children of Israel as discipline. This oppression took place over the time span of eighteen years. It wasn’t until after eighteen years that the children of Israel called upon the Lord for help. The Lord responded according to His mercy and grace and sent Ehud to be their deliverer.
The testimony of Judges Chapter 3 explains that Ehud became a representative of Israel to Moab since Moab was taxing the Israelites. One day when Ehud was delivering their taxes to the king of Moab, Ehud assassinated the king of Moab and then led the children of Israel in a great victory over the rest of the Moabites. The children of Israel were saved from the oppression of the Moabites that day and enjoyed eighty years of peace and prosperity in the land on account of the leadership of Ehud. The Lord used this mighty man of the tribe of Benjamin as His vessel of deliverance and salvation. The Lord used this mighty man from the small tribe of Benjamin to restore peace to His people and equip them with affluence.
The genealogy of Benjamin then goes on to list several of the descendants of Ehud that lived during the time of the judges. Unfortunately, these generations were part of a wicked and rebellious generation that nearly caused the extinction of the tribe of Benjamin altogether. Though God used the people of the tribe of Benjamin in a powerful way as His tool of salvation and restoration, the tribe of Benjamin quickly went back to the wickedness that caused them to be oppressed in the first place. In fact, the tribe of Benjamin excelled in their sin so that their transgressions against God were far worse than the first time. The testimony of Judges Chapter 19 explains that the people of Benjamin were accepting of various forms of idolatry, sexual immorality, and murder. Some men from the region of Gibeah had taken the concubine of a Levite and raped her to death. When the rest of the tribes of Israel confronted the elders of the tribe of Benjamin to turn the criminals over for discipline, the elders of Benjamin refused. They harbored the evil men and sought to justify their actions. This resulted in a civil war in which the tribe of Benjamin assembled tens of thousands of soldiers to fight on behalf of lawbreakers, rapists, and murderers.
This civil war cost Israel the lives of tens of thousands of men over the course of three major battles. Eventually the Lord enabled the rest of the tribes of Israel to have victory over the tribe of Benjamin so that the whole tribe was slaughtered with the sword and burned except for a mere six hundred people that fled the region. The tool that God used to destroy the king of Moab that brought peace to Israel for eighty years turned against God so that they were struck down to only six hundred people on account of their wickedness. This just goes to show that the manner in which God uses certain people is not an indication that such people are righteous and just in the eyes of God. Truly all fall short of the glory of God being prone to sin against Him in order to indulge in the desires of the flesh in various ways.
The genealogy of Benjamin goes on to include the family of King Saul – the first king of Israel. Here it is important to recognize the magnitude of God’s grace and persistence to provide His people chances to do right. Though the tribe of Benjamin was judged in such a severe manner in Judges Chapters 19-21, God selected the first king of Israel from this very tribe. Saul was even from the least of the families in the tribes of Israel. Clearly Saul didn’t do anything to warrant such a promotion. Clearly the tribe of Benjamin was not qualified for such a position of stature and prestige. Nevertheless, God selected an obscure man from the smallest family among the smallest tribe in Israel that had just been discipline for a miserable sin. A tribe that was equal in number to any other tribe in Israel was chopped down to almost nothing. Then upon God’s gracious movement, their tribe was able to boast of providing the first of Israel’s kings!
This was God’s determined plan. The Lord did this to show that He is able to make something out of nothing. God did this to prove that, though His people wrestle with Him and rebel against Him, He is faithful, patient, merciful, and gracious to work with His people to exalt them according to His purposes anyway. God is not dependent on the performance of people since history shows the performances of people to be so evil. God’s promises are fulfilled by the grace of God and grace alone. In that God desires to deal with the most pitiful of people to exalt them by His hand of grace shows that no one is able to boast before the Lord concerning their position in life.
The genealogy of Benjamin then goes on to document several generations from Saul’s son named Jonathan. Jonathan was a noble man of faith that served as a great help to King David before he was able to assume the position of king. God used Jonathan in great ways to preserve the life of David and to encourage David according to the Lord’s purposes. The end of the genealogy of Benjamin focuses on the descendants of Jonathan, not any of the other kings or famous men that came from Benjamin since many of them did evil. The genealogy ends by showing that the tribe of Benjamin still put forth “mighty men of valor” and that their population numbers were relatively normal compared to the other tribes of Israel. They remained in proportion with the other tribes even though they were cut down so low at the end of the Book of Judges. This shows that God rebuilt the tribe. God not only exalted a pitiful individual into a position of honor, but also extended honor from that man to his son and other generations. The tribe that fought against their own brothers later was restored to fight with their brothers, providing many “mighty men of valor” to protect their country and Godly heritage.
Though God brought severe discipline against these people, the big picture of the genealogy shows that God made it a point to forgive these people, redeem them back to Himself, restore them according to His purposes, and rebuild them unto the fulfillment of His promises. In that God did such a great work of renewal through such a corrupted and diminished people shows that God excels in this work and even prefers it. Thus, those who resemble the weak and pitiful nature of the tribe of Benjamin are not disqualified from the Lord’s favor. Rather, if we are to confess that we are indeed unwise, weak, and shameful, we then declare ourselves as prime candidates for God’s miraculous work of restoration unto His glory!
Sometimes God takes a LONG time to fulfill His promises. Many times, the pace of God’s work can discourage His people. Though it is not God’s intent to discourage His people, God’s intent is to instill patience through the administration of various trials in order to refine our faith. In other words, God makes us wait so that we can show our resolve to stick with Him no matter what. That is not only glorifying to Him and strengthening to us, but also a powerful witness to onlookers. God doesn’t take a long time to do His work because He’s tired or forgetful. He has good reasons to do the things He does. One of the main purposes for God’s gradual workflow is that it proves God’s transcendence. God will often times make a promise to one generation and fulfill it through another generation. This doesn’t mean that God is angry with or neglecting one generation in favor of another. Instead, this proves that God is able to outlast generations and still get the job done. People will come and go, but the Word of God remains and is continually fulfilling itself. Where people seek to match God’s righteousness and power, God will speak certain promises and intentionally wait to fulfill them to purposefully show that His faithfulness, righteousness, wisdom, and power outlast everyone because He alone is the Lord God Almighty.
An example of this truth is clearly seen in the genealogies of Ephraim and Asher. In 1 Chronicles 7:20-40 the Bible documents the genealogies of Ephraim (the younger son of Joseph) and Asher the son of Jacob. The reason Ephraim is mentioned instead of Joseph is because Joseph’s inheritance was split between Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh. The tribe of Manasseh dwelt in two areas, one half on the east side of the Jordan River and one half on the west side of the Jordan River. Ephraim dwelt just south of the West Manasseh, just above the region of Benjamin in central Israel. In order to understand the purpose of the genealogy and God’s transcendence in the genealogy, it is important to consider the context of Ephraim’s inheritance. In Genesis 48:18-20 the Bible testifies of the circumstances where Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons. Jacob was supposed to bless Manasseh first with double portion because he was the oldest. However, Jacob instead blessed Ephraim in the same manner that he was blessed. In that blessing, he proclaimed that the older should serve the younger much in the same way that Esau was to serve Jacob. There, Jacob gave a prophetic proclamation stating that Ephraim would be greater than his older brother and that their descendants would be more in number.
The beginning of Ephraim’s genealogy does not suggest that God was willing to fulfill that promise. It is not until the Bible gets towards the end of the genealogy that we can see God’s transcendence, wisdom, and power. The genealogy begins by stating that Ephraim’s sons were killed by some selfish men from Gath. The region of Gath was inhabited by Philistines, many of which were described as large men that excelled in combat, and many were even giants. At the time of Ephraim, the children of Israel were not warriors or trained soldiers. The children of Israel were farmers, shepherds, and land workers. The genealogy of Ephraim states that men of Gath came and sought to take the cattle that the sons of Ephraim tended. When they took their cattle, they killed the sons of Ephraim. Ephraim had nine sons and that the men of Gath likely killed all nine.
The details of the genealogy explain that Ephraim went into great mourning and likely wondered how God’s prophecy could be fulfilled since all of his sons were killed. How could the descendants of Ephraim be a great tribe if they were unable to defend themselves against the wicked men of Gath? How could the tribe of Ephraim be great if Ephraim’s sons couldn’t even protect some cattle? How could the tribe of Ephraim be great if they were all dead? The Bible states that after some time, Ephraim had another son and named him Beriah, which translates into “Tragedy.” Beriah essentially became a memorial to the murder that took place. Beriah became a reminder of the grief and heartache that Ephraim would have felt having lost all of his sons. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, Ephraim was able to have this “tragedy” and build something great out of it.
The Bible says that Beriah had a daughter named Sheerah. The scriptures explain that she built several major cities. Recall that the genealogies highlight the exploits of many men that served as “mighty men of valor.” The genealogies used this phrase and context to describe the excellence of the people in the different families. Here, the Bible equates the accomplishments of Sheerah to the same excellence as the mighty men. This shows that God’s perspective is fair to uphold women in just as high of esteem of men when they are used as tools of His righteousness to accomplish His will. The virtue of Sheerah was revered as the strength of “mighty men of valor” because Sheerah was an instrument that God used to complete the fulfillment of His promise.
Just a few generations after Beriah and his daughter Sheerah, a man named Joshua was born from a man named Nun. This is “Joshua the son of Nun” that led the children of Israel across the Jordan River, into the Promised Land, and across the region to conquer the Canaanites according to God’s will. This was the same Joshua who said:
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." – Joshua 24:15
The tribe of Ephraim indeed became great in number. The successes and victories of Joshua alone were far greater than that of most families and generations. When compared to the genealogy of the tribe of Asher, there is no such person that matches the excellence of Joshua the son of Nun. Yet, Joshua came from the tribe of Ephraim. The tribe that was initially leveled into nearly nothing because the leading vessel that God used to put the people into the Land and purge the Land from corruption and evil. The naming of Beriah shows that Ephraim himself was deeply distraught and discouraged. We don’t know if Ephraim had completely lost hope in the promise God made when he was a child in Genesis 48:18-20, but the circumstances of his family did not make it seem as if God would do what He said. The murder of nine sons doesn’t seem like a good start when trying to build something great. Nevertheless, God was able to take that “tragedy” and manifest a virtuous woman to build up dwelling places of His people, and a leader whose testimony resembled that of Jesus Himself! Though God may take His time to do what He says, and though things may look like they’re moving in the opposite direction of God’s promises, God’s transcendent wisdom and power is able to see His promises fulfilled no matter what!
The purposes of the Lord can be hard to understand sometimes. Since God is sovereign and the Creator of all things, He is superior to all living things in this life and in eternity. He is not obligated to report to anyone. He is not bound to any other authority. God doesn’t have to tell anyone what He’s doing or why He’s doing it. The fact that we as people have any revelation of God and His doings is an extension of His grace. In fact, when Jesus taught the disciples on the night of the Last Supper, He said that He no longer considered the disciples “servants,” but instead “friends” based on the extent of revelation He provided to them. The privilege of being the Lord’s “friend” was based on the privilege that the disciples had to receive God’s revelation of salvation, glory, and eternal life through Jesus. This means that any insight that is provided to mankind concerning the things of God should be cherished. Still, God’s purposes are hard to understand, especially since He doesn’t divulge all of the details of His work. We are simply supposed to cherish the opportunity to be used by Him in any capacity so long as we are considered His children.
This truth is especially important to understand when the scriptures deal with genealogies that are difficult to understand. The genealogies of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, and half of the tribe of Manasseh that is documented in 1 Chronicles 7:1-19 is difficult to understand. The Bible begins this section of genealogies by reviewing the descendants of Issachar. The tribe of Issachar eventually settled in the Promised Land in central Israel. Issachar was a small tribe in terms of the size of their land inheritance. Compared to most of the other tribes, it was one of the smallest portions. Yet the Bible focuses on documenting the amount of men that served as “mighty men of valor.” The genealogy boasts on behalf of the tribe of Issachar to show that over time, they put forth 144,000 mighty men of valor. For such a small portion of land inheritance and for such a small tribe, this is a great number. The prophecy of Issachar in Genesis Chapter 49 explained that the descendants of Issachar would be like strong donkeys, bred to bear great burdens. The military strength of this tribe shows that, despite their size in numbers, they were indeed a great beast of burden, able to lend valued assistance to their neighboring brothers in times of battle to protect the integrity of Israel on occasion. The prophecy of Genesis Chapter 49 shows that God had this use for Issachar in mind long before He used them this way. The size of the tribe was not a reflection of the extent of usage and power that God would demonstrate through them. Their might was due to the ordination of God, not the strength of their numbers.
The documentation of the tribe of Benjamin fits the same type of mold. The Bible explains that Benjamin was also one of the smallest tribes of the descendants of Jacob. They were located just north of Judah along the banks of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Though they were small in number, their military strength is also well documented. The genealogy of Benjamin emphasizes the amount of “mighty men of valor” in the same manner of Issachar. Despite their size, they were able to put forth over sixty thousand men of valor. The Bible states that many of these men were helpful to serve the needs of the kingdom of Israel during the days of King David. This is especially noble since Israel’s first king was from the tribe of Benjamin – King Saul. When King Saul died there was a civil war due to God’s appointment of King David as the succeeding king (he resided from the tribe of Judah). However, after the civil war was distilled, the men of Benjamin became some of David’s most loyal supporters that were helpful to his cause when David experienced more hardships later in his rule. No matter their size, God also used the tribe of Benjamin in mighty ways that were helpful to the establishment of the whole nation of Israel.
The next genealogies are more difficult to understand. The genealogy of Naphtali only mentions the first generations of sons from Naphtali. It is unknown why this is the only generation listed. It is possible that some of the records were lost, or that God simply didn’t feel it necessary to list these men. It is also worth noting that the tribes of Zebulun and Dan aren’t mentioned at all. Once again, the Bible is not clear as to why God omitted so much of Israel’s history and the men of God’s nation. This shows that to be mentioned in the Word of God is a great privilege when considered a child of God. This is not to suggest that the names that aren’t mentioned are not heirs of God’s promises. At the same time however, when a person is mentioned in the context of being identified as God’s child, it is a beautiful thing of assurance. God’s specific purpose for these individuals is not clear, but their names are mentioned to show that God used them in some way. Not every person’s purpose is made specifically clear to other people when used in the complex plans of the Almighty God. Nevertheless, God knows and understands the manner in which He uses each person, and we can rest assured of that truth when the names of His people are documented in His book.
The same could be said of the half tribe of Manasseh that is listed in this genealogy. This genealogy documents the half of the tribe that dwelt on the west side of the Jordan River since the other half dwelt on the east side of the Jordan River. Neither this genealogy or the genealogy of Naphtali make mention of “mighty men of valor.” This isn’t to say that they didn’t have any, but that God did not emphasize that of these tribes. God had different purposes for these tribes. God had different focuses for these tribes. God used these men in different ways, and whether their specific usage is detailed or not is of no concern to God. In the same manner, our particular usage by God might not be clearly stated and documented in plain sight, but that is not an excuse for us to wallow in depression or walk in bitterness. The Bible instructs God’s people to walk by faith and not by sight, meaning that if we are possessors of God’s Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, we are tools in the Lord’s arsenal of purpose for good. The particular manner in which God uses us should not be our chief concern. Instead, we can rejoice in the simple fact that we were selected for good since the alternative is condemnation. Rather than complain or wallow about it, we can walk in gratitude knowing that our names too have been written in God’s Book of Life. It can be comforting to know if we would be used in particular ways, especially as people of might and valor; but the truth is, to endure the walk of Jesus Christ would identify any child of God as being “more than a conqueror.” Regardless of how this victory might manifest itself in daily life and through God’s utilization, this is a great position to be in!
The Bible teaches that God will be totally blameless when He judges the world of sin and righteousness. Those who receive the benefits of God’s blessings will be entitled to them because they did what God said – received His grace by faith. Those who are denied God’s benefits and are instead condemned unto eternal separation from God in darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth will receive their just due. According to the scriptures, these people will be condemned because they denied and rejected the goodness and grace of God in order to live according to their own flawed standards. The Bible teaches that God gives every single living person ample opportunity to know Him and receive His grace through a variety of mechanisms. God reveals His righteousness through the testimony of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah; but for those who are not afforded the opportunity to hear the true Gospel, God has revealed His eternal power and Godhead through creation and implanted His righteousness into the human conscience in order to make Himself known. The scriptures explain that each person will be judged fairly based on the extent of revelation that God provides to each person, but at the same time, the Bible shows that God provides A LOT of revelation to make Himself known so that no one will have an excuse when standing before the Lord.
This truth is made evident in the genealogies of the Levites. In 1 Chronicles 6:54-81 the Bible describes how each of the families of the Levites were spread out throughout the territory of Israel. This portion of scripture lists all of the cities that the Levites dwelt in that were given to them as “common-lands” in order that the Levites could perform their services unto the Lord. First, it is important to recall that the dispersed nature of the tribe of Levi was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. In Genesis 49:5-6 the Bible explains that God proclaimed judgment against two of the sons of Jacob – Simeon and Levi. God spoke prophecy through Jacob to pronounce judgment against Simeon, Levi, and their descendants based on the evil they previously committed in the land of Shechem. The Bible explains that both Simeon and Levi responded unjustly and wickedly against the men of Shechem because one man raped their younger sister Dinah. Rather than seek justice against the one man that was guilty, Simeon and Levi deceived the whole town and ended up killing all of them. Thus, when Jacob gave blessings to his sons before he died, the Lord used that moment to proclaim that the tribes of Simeon and Levi would be dispersed throughout the land of Israel as a consequence for their evil. When examining the testimony of 1 Chronicles 6:54-81 it is clear to see that this prophecy was fulfilled. The tribe of Levi was indeed spread out all over the Promised Land.
God made good use of this dispersion. Though God judged the tribe of Levi for transgressions, He was able to use His judgment for good purpose. Recall that the tribe of Levi was not given a land inheritance from the Lord because the Lord was to be their inheritance. The rest of the tribes of Israel received portions of land that were given as gifts for their descendants to pass down from generation to generation. The tribe of Levi did not receive a land inheritance from the Lord when they conquered the region. Instead, the Lord told the tribe of Levi that He would be their inheritance. Though the rest of the tribes were given land to own, the tribe of Levi was exclusively privileged to serve the Lord in unique capacities. They were the sole tribe that God appointed as servants of His tabernacle, of His sacrifices, offerings, as priests, and as facilitators of praise and worship on the feast days. No other tribe was permitted to do such things. Therefore, it was helpful to the children of Israel that God spread them out throughout the land.
Since the tribe of Levi was spread out all over, the rest of the tribes had access to the spiritual services that the Levites were committed to offering. In this way, the children of Israel were without excuse. Each tribe gave up certain areas known as “common lands” that the Levites dwelt in. These regions were not owned by the Levites but were used by them in order to offer up sacrifices, sing songs of praise, and administrate certain cities of refuge. The cities of refuge were cities that were designated by God to serve as sanctuary cities for those who had killed someone else accidentally. Those who were guilty of transgressing the Law by accident could dwell in cities of refuge and be protected from others that might seek to carry out vengeance or some other injustice. Since these areas were spread out all over, none of the children of Israel had an excuse to know the Lord, give their sacrifices, celebrate the feast days, and so forth. No one could say that they didn’t have access to a priest to offer sacrifices. No one could say they didn’t know the Lord’s grace and mercy through the cities of refuge. No one could say that they were ignorant of the Law since Levites were scattered throughout the land to administrate it to the people. So long as the Levites were doing their jobs as the Lord’s inheritance, the rest of the people had no excuse.
Here it is important to recognize the greatness of God. Notice how He was able to judge a certain group of people and then use that judgment to provide a helpful result for His people at the same time. The judgment of the people was actually profitable to God’ greater cause. It is subtle details like this that lend to add substance to certain promises like, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” It might not have appeared to be good when Levi was judged in Genesis 49:5-6; but the outcome of God’s judgment was helpful to the rest of Israel since the administrators of God’s law were spread out all over. The people that God appointed as intercessors were easily accessible to all the people so that no one could claim ignorance or blame God for inconvenience. Additionally, when examining some of the cities that are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:54-81 it is important to recognize that some of these cities were quite large! God provided adequate workspace for the Levites to do their jobs all over, but also enough space to work at the convenience of the people. The Levites didn’t have a valid complaint against God because God provided the proper space to perform their duties. Likewise, the people could not complain against God because He made His servants accessible all over so that anyone could receive the benefits promised through His law with simplicity.