Sunday, March 28, 2010

At the King's Table

And David said, "Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" And he said, "I am your servant." And the king said, "Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?" Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet."

Then the king called Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, "All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson. And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master's grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master's grandson shall always eat at my table." Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, "According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's table, like one of the king's sons. And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba's house became Mephibosheth's servants. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king's table. Now he was lame in both his feet. (2 Samuel 9:1-3 and 9-13, NASB)


He was living, from all appearances, in hiding. From an early age, he had known life on the run. He was a man out of place, a man perhaps filled with thoughts of what might have been. And those "might have been" thoughts had many variations. Not only was he the last surviving member of a royal line long since defunct, his nurse had dropped him during the first escape and both his feet were crippled as a result. If only things had been different ...

When I listened to this particular passage recently, I found I had to back up and play it again. It only spans thirteen verses, so it only played for about two and a half minutes. But the story found a spot in my mind that I just couldn't shake either that day during my drive home or in the time since. In a crystal clear reflection of the generosity of God, David asks the question, "Who can I show kindness to for the sake of me dear friend Jonathan?" The answer? A young, lame man by the name of Mephibosheth ... Jonathan's son.

The story tells of the servant (Ziba) who happened to work for Saul and Jonathan in former times. Somebody knows his history and he finds himself in front of King David. Heaven knows what might have gone through the man's mind when he was first summoned, but I've no doubt he was relieved to hear David was only after information ... and information was something Ziba had on this particular subject.

Now, turn your thoughts to Mephibosheth. We don't know much about his life, other than where he was living and how he got there. And, of course, we know that he was crippled in both his feet. By whatever means, he is brought to the very same King David as was Ziba and he is prepared to be very contrite. Then, the story takes its turn. David, a man of considerable passion and a strong love for Jonathan, tells Mephibosheth that he doesn't ever have to worry about anything for the rest of his life. He has, by royal edict, restored possessions, granted servants, and given him a seat with the princes of Israel. Mephibosheth will now and forever more take all his meals at the king's table.

How much like our gracious and loving Father this story is. God has granted me, a man of similar ailments as plagued Mephibosheth, a seat at the table of the King. And not only do I hold that honor right here and now, but I have a guarantee of a place at His table yet to come in a place that transcends all imagination. And when I get to that table, I'll find I don't have bad knees, or a weak heart, or easily-sprained ankles, or any of a dozen other physical ailments. I'll sit there (or maybe fall down) and bask in the glow of my King in a worship feast beyond all banquets I've ever known.

As I hobble down the Crooked Path, I can almost feel the infirmities lifting away. Sure, I have a place at the King's earthly table now, but I can get positively giddy just thinking about the table yet to come. My feet feel lighter and the air is somehow more refreshing than before. I have a place at the King's table ... just like Mephibosheth.


  1. First and foremost, do you have a place at the King's table? He's holding one just for you, you know.
  2. Do you struggle with the thought that you are welcome at the King's table? Do you find the idea more than a little foreign, or can you envision it as the most welcoming place in the universe?
  3. How about your "crippled feet"? Is your focus at times too much on them, or can you get past the pain and struggle enough to enjoy your permanent place at the King's table? I know I'm ready to feast ... are you?


NASB - Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Once Upon a Time ...

Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there. Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. They took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. (Ruth 1:1-4, NASB)

Now it took place in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days as King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne which was at the citadel in Susa, in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his princes and attendants, the army officers of Persia and Media, the nobles and the princes of his provinces being in his presence. And he displayed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty for many days, 180 days. (Esther 1:1-4, NASB)

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was (H)the greatest of all the men of the east. (Job 1:1-3, NASB)

The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3, NASB)


We all love our stories. I believe part of this lies in the fact that our Creator loves His stories as well. In fact, His Word to us is, when examined from beginning to end, one continuous story. It is comprised of many smaller stories, to be sure, along with accounts of history, prophecy, and doctrine. Many of the books in the Bible seem very succinct in their mission and focus. Others cover a broad range of subjects. But the one thing they have in common is their part in the Story God is providing for us. Among these books, four stand out to me as some of the most wonderful examples of "story" ... and each one starts (almost) with a classic "once upon a time ..." setting. And, for me, each one echoes a theme reflecting the character of God in a special way.

The book of Ruth, as we have it organized in our Bibles, comes as a breath of fresh air when you consider it along with the book of Judges. It falls somewhere in that timeframe, based on the opening lines, but instead of a tale of constant cycle of disobedience, crying out, and rescue, it tells the story of a man, his wife, their sons, and two women whom they marry in a foreign land. In the end, the story of Ruth shouts out the redemptive compassion of our God for those who are faithful to Him. And almost as an "extra reward", we find Ruth - a former outsider from Moab - named in the ancestry of King David ... and ultimately King Jesus!

Esther, while clearly displaying God's faithfulness and preservation of His people, does so without even once mentioning His name. If you are looking for a story filled with mystery, intrigue, scheming, and political coup then Esther has it all. And this young, Jewish girl is willing to risk her very life to be part of God's plan. The story reaches its climax at the second dinner party and then turns on its heels as Haman finds his own end on the very gallows he built to eradicate the hated Jews.

Job is a mystery and a puzzle to many. There would even be some who question why the story is told to us. We know where it takes place, but we don't get much perspective on when or why or anything else leading up to the opening of the tale. To me, the story itself is almost as inexplicable as the God who is magnified in it. When I read or hear Job, I come away with a renewed sense of awe - God really doesn't owe me an explanation about anything. He is working on a level so far above what I can comprehend, I can only fall down with Job and worship Him, trusting that He is good beyond good even when I cannot understand what He is doing.

And then there is Jonah. Alone among all the prophetic writings, this story is less about the prophecy than it is about the story of a man who is bent on having it all his own way. He wangles and weasels through the story, reluctantly bearing the message of a gracious God who is so ready to grant a second (and third and fourth) chance to people ... just because He loves us that much. Sadly, as that story ends, we have no indication whether or not Jonah took that lesson to heart.

My travels on this Crooked Path are great opportunities to not only read and hear God's stories, but to understand my own part in His Master Story. Every day ... every step provides the opportunity to know His heart better and to follow after Him with renewed purpose.


  1. Do you hear His Story in what you read and see around you?
  2. What is God trying to say to you, right now, where you are? Are you willing to listen and know your part in what He is doing?
  3. Do you stand ready to learn from His Word, and to see how all of it, working together, calls out from the heart of our Father?


NASB - Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Now Serving - Justice!

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:5-10, NIV)


There are at least two times in my life when I would have rather preferred to have mercy than justice. Both of them involve just me, in a vehicle, and another vehicle with flashing lights. One happened rather late in the evening just after I missed a the turn I wanted and took another one to get me where I was headed. The other happened in the middle of the day, along a well-traveled city street. I eventually paid for the first one (it was an out of state ticket) but I chose to try a different tactic with the local one.

I reviewed a map of my town and discovered, much to my amusement, that the street on which I fell "victim" to the speed trap had the city limit line running right down the middle of it. Since the entire event happened on the East side of that line, it was not technically within the city limit of the officers who clocked me and pulled me over. In fact, they were standing in the next city for the whole thing. I could smell my own version of justice as I wrote in my response (after all, that was an available option and only a fool would actually show up in court, right?)

The very thorough magistrate who responded to my inquiry was kind enough to enclose a copy of the ordinance stating that any officer in any jurisdiction was allowed to patrol not only his or her own area, but all roads immediately bordering said jurisdiction. Enclosed was a reaffirmation of my fine. Oh, and in taking the route I took to seek resolution, I had waived my right to go to court anyway. Justice had been served, and I was out the amount of the fine.

From the beginning, God set up His standard of obedience. Because He is holy beyond what we seem to be able to grasp as holy, the standard was perfection. If you need further evidence, go read all of Leviticus and Deuteronomy very carefully. Plus, God actually tells us we need to be holy in the same way He is holy plenty of other times. And, as I mentioned in my last entry, He knew even then that we couldn't possibly attain the standard.

So, when "the fullness of time had come" God sent Jesus to perfectly fulfill once and for all the legal requirement He had established in the first place. And in doing so, He makes a stunning provision for us. Even as we in ourselves are quite unholy, He has accounted to our record the perfect holiness of Christ. His own standard of justice demanded to be served, and God chose to serve it for all of us by Himself.

Now, here's the great part for you and me. We still fall short and sin on a regular basis. That sin, were it left alone, is an automatic disqualification based on the standard. Yet again God says, all we need to do is come back to Him and find that He has already meted out justice and forgiven us. That's exactly what the passage in 1 John says. God remains faithful to Himself and, in His own provision of justice, has granted forgiveness for our sins. He then continues the work by purifying us, making us fit to fellowship with Him both now and forever.

My life is all too often a mess. I try to take control of things; try on my own to live up to the standard. In doing so, there are times I actually live out the last verse in this passage - acting as if I either don't sin or that I can handle it all on my own. But thank God He is faithful to his own justice, and He has granted forgiveness because of Who He is. Justice has been served on me, but my cost is zero. I am 100% legally cleared. This makes my feet want to fly on the Crooked Path ... and run even faster to Him.


  1. What is your personal view of God's justice and forgiveness? How does it match up with the passage in 1 John?
  2. Do you find yourself at times trying to work out your own version of justice? How do you think God views this?
  3. Are you somehow afraid that God actually won't forgive you? Does it sound foreign to you that He already has done that and is waiting (with open arms) to shower His forgiveness on you? Wouldn't you feel free to follow Him more closely if you could take that to heart?


NIV - Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

An Impossible Standard

Now the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock. If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire. Then the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat in order on the wood that is on the fire upon the altar; but he shall wash its entrails and its legs with water. And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.'" (Leviticus 1:1-9, NKJV)




Nearly everyone has been through or knows about a small town where the speed limit is enforced precisely and the fines are high. Usually you have to slow down to thirty-five (or even twenty-five) and if you go even one mile an hour over the limit, you can rest assured that the local police are waiting with their radar gun to clock your error and flag you down. Never mind that you wonder how such a small town can afford that much in radar equipment ... you know you will see the flashing lights in your rear-view mirror.


But suppose for a minute that it wasn't a speed limit, but rather an exact speed. If you went over by even a fraction you were stopped and if you went under by any amount at all, you were stopped and ticketed just the same. And to make matters worse, the standard for speed was entirely up to the one doing the checking. What you would have would be an impossible situation ... and one that would likely make you think more than just twice about going through that particular town.


This week, multiple things came into play that caused me to choose the passage above and write on it. It isn't that the exact message of Leviticus 1 is what drove me, but rather the whole book. God has moved His people into the dessert to separate them as a holy nation. He proceeded, through Moses, to lay down His commandments and now begins a series of laws, practices, and ordinances that outline what it means to be an Israelite and commit completely to following Him. What follows after Leviticus 1 is a detailed outline - and perhaps "detailed" is an understatement.


If you've never taken the time to read Leviticus (or if it has been a long time), I suggest you do it. As I listened to those chapters this past week, it was almost as if a cloud was gathering above me. Each sacrifice, each ordinance, each commandment seemed harder to follow than the last one. It was as if somebody was setting up a system that was completely impossible to follow and that anybody who was negligent in even one small point was doomed to spend their life "outside the camp". And then the reading in Leviticus was over and God stepped in and cleared that cloud for me.


What I had experienced regarding the impossibility of the system was exactly the point. God set it all up to, once again, demonstrate who He was and the seemingly ridiculous extent of His holiness. And when I use the term "set up" I mean this ... God knew, right from the start, how He would go about meeting His own standard. His Divine Conspiracy (nod to Dallas Willard) comes to a head in the Messiah. And this morning, as part of the worship team, we sang that exact song - "Jesus Messiah"! What an absolute marvel of emotion and praise as the lyrics flowed. Jesus is the "Rescue for sinners, the Ransom from Heaven." God always intended it to be that way. The whole text of Leviticus with its completely obnoxious set of rules and regulations is an exclamation point on God's redemptive plan and Christ's substitutionary death. I can't live up to the order in Leviticus and God knew it all along!


With a renewed heart and a lightened burden, I continue my steps along the Crooked Path knowing that God's impossible standard is fulfilled and I'm not to concern myself with it any longer. My role is to listen and follow. I am not traveling alone and I never have been. Christ has already walked this path, and He did it perfectly.



  1. Are you bogged down with the daily sacrifice? Do you feel like the standard is just too high for you to attain?
  2. If you are still working at it that way, why are you doing that? Do you think somehow, somewhere that you can do something on your own to fulfill all that is expected of you?
  3. Or have you freed yourself from the burden because you know Christ has already carried it in your place? Have you reached that point where you see the message in Leviticus as the ultimate illustration of how holy God is and how far He is willing to go to provide for you?

NKJV - Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.