Perishable and Imperishable Kingdoms

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 12.17-18
17 David went out to meet them and said to them, “If you have come to me in peace to help me, I am ready for you to join me. But if you have come to betray me to my enemies when my hands are free from violence, may the God of our ancestors see it and judge you.” 
18 Then the Spirit came on Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said: 
“We are yours, David! 
We are with you, son of Jesse! 
Success, success to you, 
and success to those who help you, 
for your God will help you.” 

Reflection: Perishable and Imperishable Kingdoms
By John Tillman

Chronicles might seem like a book that looks back, longing for the “good old days,” but in reality it uses the past to think about the future.

David’s kingdom is idealized partly because one purpose of Chronicles is reminding people that a king “like David” is coming. Its readers had seen a Temple and a wall rebuilt, but not a kingdom. They wrestled with God’s promises of the past and past generations’ failures to fully realize those promises. Did God mean what he said about David’s kingdom having no end? Would God really bless the nations through them? When would this “Son of David” arise?

Chronicles gives a more thorough account of the slowly growing support for David after Saul’s reign. These men from many tribes transferred allegiance to a homeless, wandering king and a kingdom not fully realized. Many brought their entire families. 

Amasai is the chief of David’s elite fighting force. They are known more for feats of battle than prophecy. Yet, Amasai was also a Levite and God’s Spirit came on him to proclaim that he, and those with him, were for David. By God’s Spirit he prophesied success and peace.

Many times in my life I have idealized “Mighty Men” like Amasai, Joab, and the other “sons of Zeruiah.” There are good things we can draw from these men and their many brave actions. However, too much teaching in the church about these men invokes “spiritual warfare” in twisted ways that allow Christians to cloak political violence in spiritual language.

These men and their lifestyles are not ideals for the Christian life. Many who served David, such as Joab, relied on violence, shrewdness, and political assassinations. They shed their own country members’ blood in service of their own power and to cover up David’s sins.

There are kingdoms of this world, like Saul’s, that are passing away. These earthly kings, tribes, and parties demand our attention, our fealty, our loyalty. They ask us to shed others’ blood by endorsing, normalizing, or embracing violence. We might fight…except that, as Jesus said, our kingdom is from another place (John 18.36) and our battles are not against flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6.12)

Let us not be goaded by kings, like Saul, who may be destroyed by their own violence. By God’s Spirit, may we forsake perishing, worldly kingdoms and prophesy success and peace for the imperishable kingdom of Jesus.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear. Down the middle of the city street, on either bank of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are cure for the nations. The curse of destruction will be abolished. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And night will be abolished; they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign forever and ever. — Revelation 22.1-5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 11-12 (Listen – 11:59)
Hebrews 13 (Listen – 3:31)

Read more about The Superior Bravery of Tenderness
Bad spiritual takeaways from these “Mighty Men” passages “baptize” men’s sinful, violent tendencies as honorable spiritual qualities.

Read more about Not So Random Acts of Kindness
Jesus is a greater king than David, never failing to minister to those in need. He did more than honor the outcast, he cured their disease.

What Is the Greatest Mystery in Creation?

Relevant Text: Rom. 16:25-27
Full Text: Job 12, Rom. 16

Knowledge | There is still a lot that we don’t know about the world. How does life arise from nonlife? Why do we need sleep? What causes gravity? [1] It makes sense, of course, that we don’t know these things. After all, doctors didn’t create the body and scientists didn’t create the world. They merely interpret what they see. God, on the other hand, has perfect knowledge about all facts and all events at the macro and micro levels and at all states of existence (e.g., physical, emotional, psychological). He doesn’t just interpret what He sees; He creates and rules it [2].

Mystery | The greatest mystery of His creation, however, is not the world; it’s our salvation. Paul ended Romans with a doxology: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” [3].

Wisdom | I At the beginning of time, when the only wise God planned our salvation, He rejected the possibility that our knowledge would save us. Instead, He chose to save us through the most foolish moment in history – death on a cross. Salvation through a weak and dead prophet seemed senseless. Yet, that was the point. His way of salvation silenced everyone – those seeking signs and those seeking wisdom [4]. It turned the most foolish moment in history into the most powerful one. Why did He do it this way? As Paul wrote in Corinthians, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise … so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” [5].

Prayer | Lord, When we stand in the mystery of your creation and look up at the skies or out to the waters, we sense that our knowledge is but a grain of sand in the beach of your wisdom. Thus, in your presence, we fall on our knees because we know that it is by your grace that our eyes are open to the greatest mystery of all – your salvation. To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ. Amen.



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[1] John Hodgman. What We Don’t Know. WIRED. (highlighting some of the great questions that remain unanswered – also, it’s also pretty funny)  |  [2] See Heb. 2:10; Col. 1:16  |  [3] Rom. 16:25-27 ESV  |  [4] 1 Cor. 1:22  |  [5] 1 Cor. 1:27, 29. See 1 Cor. 1:18-31 (which also happens to be the passage for tomorrow’s devotional).

A Good Woman Is Hard to Find

Relevant Text: Est. 2:22-23
Full Text: Est. 2; Acts 25

Wife | How should a man choose a wife? In their latest book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim and Kathy Keller argue that spiritual friendship should be the basis for marriage because, “It is easier to turn a friend into a romantic partner than to turn a romantic partner into a friend” [1]. With the same ring of friendship, philosopher Giuseppe Mazzini said, “Look to her not only for comfort, but for strength and inspiration and the doubling of your intellectual and moral powers” [2].

Cinderella | Esther is the Cinderella story of the Bible. An unknown and beautiful Jewish orphan girl rises to become the Queen of Persia. In the first chapter, King Xerxes divorces and deposes Queen Vashti because she refuses his invitation to dinner. In the second chapter, he selects Esther as queen in a beauty contest – hardly the method suggested by the Kellers. Yet, his courtship is not the point [3]; God’s sovereign salvation through her courageous strength is. After all, Esther is not just another pretty face; she is smart and bold and disciplined.

Audience | Shortly after Xerxes and Esther were married, Mordecai – her guardian and adoptive father – overheard two guards conspiring to assassinate the king. So Mordecai told Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on the gallows [4]. Esther was bold in going to Xerxes. After all, anyone who requested a meeting with the king could have been killed. Moreover, she knew what had happened to Vashti when she disrespected Xerxes. Yet, she went. Boldly and loyally, she went. And her husband was saved by her wisdom. Indeed, in marrying Esther, he doubled his intellectual and moral powers.

Prayer | Lord, The purpose of true womanhood is “to display the glory of Christ in its highest expression, namely, in his dying to make a rebellious people his everlasting and supremely happy bride” [5]. In Esther, we see a foreshadowing of Christ – for both put their lives on the line to save your people. Yet, although Esther was beautiful in appearance, Christ was not [6]. Therefore, let us be women who pursue and men who love the true picture of godly femininity – not mere external adornment, but rather “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” [7]. Amen.



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[1] Tim and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage. If you’re interested in watching the book launch event, where Bethany Jenkins (founder of The Park Forum) co-interviewed the Kellers, click here.

[2] Quoted in Bill Bennett, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood. Chapter: “Man with Woman and Children.” Paragraph 7. Kindle edition, Location 7787. Review on Washington Times: here.

[3] Just because something is mentioned as having happened in the Bible does not mean that the Lord condones it. Very often Bible teachers will distinguish between readings in the Bible that are “descriptive” (that is, part of the history that contributes to the understanding of the story) and readings that are “normative” (that is, teachings that we should follow and do). So, for example, the fact that Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines is descriptive but not normative (after all, the law required that a king should only take one wife – see Deut. 17:14-17). In the same way, Xerxes’ courtship is not mentioned for its normative factor because it’s narrative.

[4] Esther 2:22-23 ESV

[5] John Piper, The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood.” 9 October 2008. Sermon. (with several mini-portraits of strong and courageous women who glorified God with their lives).

[6] See Isaiah 53.

[7] See 1 Peter 3:1-6 (although this is directed to believing women who are married to unbelieving men, its truth is equally applicable to believing women who are married to believing men).

[FN] The title of this devotional is roughly taken from Prov. 31:10.

The Collision of the Primary and Secondary Worlds

Relevant Text: Acts 20:22-24
Full Text: Neh. 10; Acts 20

Worlds | According to Tolkien, the “Primary World” is the world that we live in and the “Secondary World” is the world that we enter into when we read great stories [1]. In the Primary World, we want to be rational. When we’re inside the Secondary World, however, rationality flies out the window. The fantastic can become true.

Collision | In Jesus, however, the Primary and Secondary Worlds collided. The most fantastic story became true when the Lord Jesus willingly died on the cross for all humanity and then conquered death itself by rising from the grave. And Paul never got over it. Prompted by the Spirit, he preached the supernatural grace of God poured out on natural sinners. As he told the Ephesian elders, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God[2].

Longing | Our life in the Primary World is meaningful because the Secondary World is true [3]. On the surface, our culture worships naturalism – the belief that reality is confined to the material and observable. Yet, our hearts long for something more. This is why we love stories like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings – for although our spiritual powers seem atrophied in the Primary World, we long for the Spirit’s supernatural powers of the Secondary World. And like Paul, we have Him in our hearts and in our midst, giving us the freedom and the discipline to testify to the gospel of the grace of God poured out on all the inhabitants of the Primary World who believe in Christ.

Prayer | Lord, Like children who read fairy-stories and ask with fullness of heart, “Is it true?”, we read the story of Jesus and ask, “Is it true?” The reality of the gospel seems almost too wonderful to believe because it reaches beyond our rational thinking. Therefore, open our imaginations and our eyes of faith to believe it so that we may have your Spirit within us. Amen.



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[1] JRR Tolkien, On Fairy Stories.  |  [2] Acts 20:22-24 ESV  |  [3] See 1 Cor. 15:19

The Joy of Understanding

Relevant Text: Neh. 8:12
Full Text: Neh. 8; Acts 18

Suspense | On Sunday night, my two preschool-age nephews and I gathered at the kitchen table to read The Magician’s Nephew. At first, they weren’t interested at all. I tried engaging them by having them say the characters’ names with me or by using my best British accent, but nothing seemed to work. Halfway through the first chapter, however, I realized what I needed to do – make the story more accessible. For example, instead of saying that Polly and Digory walked on “rafters” in an attic, I said that they stepped on “small pieces of wood through which they could fall at any moment.” After I changed a few more references like this, they got it. By the end of chapter one, they were hooked – so hooked, in fact, that neither one wanted to sleep alone that night because they were in suspense about what was going to happen to Polly!

Joy | Mere words on a page – spoken in an understandable and accessible way – can change how we feel about reality. After Ezra read from the Book of the Law, the Levites explained it, the people understood it, and everyone rejoiced: “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’ … And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them[1].

Prayer | Lord, Your truth – followed by clear explanation – leads to great joy, which is our strength. Therefore, we praise you for your Word and for teachers of your Word. Thank you for making understanding and joy the path to salvation in you. Make us hope-filled saints who rejoice that we belong to you! Amen.



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[1] Neh. 8:8-10, 12 ESV