Day 219

Three Bad Attitudes That Cause Division

Wisdom Psalm 92:1-15
New Testament 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
Old Testament 1 Chronicles 24:1-26:19

Introduction

During my time at university, I shared rooms together with my great friend Nicky Lee who became one of the associate vicars of HTB. We did all our own catering; I did the cooking and Nicky Lee did the dividing. He was an expert at dividing whatever was cooked into exactly equal portions! This is but one instance where division is used in a good sense rather than a bad one.

Divisions are a fact of life. They need not necessarily be a bad thing. Indeed, they may even be necessary. For example, placing people in different divisions in an organisation may be helpful and important. We see this kind of division in the Old Testament passage for today.

Then, there is the division that will take place on the day of judgment. This is a necessary division between good and evil. This kind of division can be seen in the psalm for today.

There is also a third kind of division, which is not good, helpful or necessary. Disunity and division in the church is a tragedy. This kind of division is one we must do our very best to avoid. It is this kind of division that the apostle Paul speaks against in the New Testament passage for today.

Wisdom

Psalm 92:1-15

Psalm 92

A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.

1 It is good to praise the Lord
 and make music to your name, O Most High,
2 proclaiming your love in the morning
 and your faithfulness at night,
3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
 I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
5 How great are your works, Lord,
 how profound your thoughts!
6 Senseless people do not know,
 fools do not understand,
7 that though the wicked spring up like grass
 and all evildoers flourish,
 they will be destroyed forever.

8 But you, Lord, are forever exalted.

9 For surely your enemies , Lord,
 surely your enemies will perish;
 all evildoers will be scattered.
10 You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox;
 fine oils have been poured on me.
11 My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
 my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
 they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
 they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
 he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him. ”

Commentary

Division between the righteous and evildoers

The world is divided, according to the psalmist, between ‘evildoers’ (v.7) and the ‘righteous’ (v.12). Evildoers are senseless ‘fools’ who ‘do not understand’ (v.6). They are ‘enemies’ of God (v.9). One day, not only will they be divided from the righteous, but they will also be divided among themselves – they will be ‘scattered’ (v.9), and they will ‘perish’ (v.9). The ‘righteous’, on the other hand, have a secure future (vv.12–15).

Both ‘evildoers’ (v.7) and the ‘righteous… flourish’ (vv.12–13), but in different ways. For the ‘evildoers’ (v.7) it is passing and temporal. They will soon be ‘destroyed’ (v.7). They are like the grass. But for the ‘righteous’ (v.12) it is a lasting and eternal flourishing. It is ‘like a palm tree’ or ‘a cedar of Lebanon’ (v.12). They ‘will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green’ (v.14).

The difference between the success of the world – power, fame, making money and so on – and the success of a true follower of Jesus in living a holy life is like the difference between grass, which only lasts a few days, and a palm tree that stands throughout the ages.

Prayer

Lord, when I see the lasting blessings you give to those who follow you, I want ‘to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night’ (v.2).

New Testament

1 Corinthians 3:1-23

The Church and Its Leaders

3Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly —mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future —all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Commentary

Divisions in the church

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is a sandwich. He starts with praise and love. He ends with grace and love. In the middle, he raises issues that he wants them to deal with.

This is a good model when confronting issues in an individual or a church. Start and end with a positive and encouraging note; but have the courage to deal with the issues.

One of the issues he raises is division in the church. He says that they are ‘worldly’ (v.1) and ‘unspiritual’ (v.1, MSG). In some ways, they were the most ‘spiritual’ of all the churches that Paul wrote to. They did ‘not lack any spiritual gift’ (1:7). However, they were ‘unspiritual’ because of bad attitudes, which led to division.

He points out three bad attitudes. These are dangers for all Christians, but particularly for Christian leaders.

  1. Jealousy
    He writes, ‘For since there is jealousy... among you, are you not worldly?’ (3:3). It is tempting to compare ourselves with others and, when we hear about some blessing another has received, to start thinking, ‘When is that going to happen to me?’ But, as Joyce Meyer writes, ‘We should bless others and not be afraid they will get ahead of us. We must not envy anyone else’s appearance, possessions, education, social standing, marital status, gifts and talents, job, or anything else because that will only hinder our own blessing.’

  2. Boasting
    Paul writes, ‘So then, no more boasting about human leaders!’ (v.21). Boasting is the temptation to compare ourselves with others, think we are doing rather well and boast about our ‘success’. We need to see our part in God’s economy in its proper perspective. We are first, ‘mere human beings’ (v.4); second, ‘only servants’ (v.5); third, ‘neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything’ (v.7). Therefore, there is no cause for ‘boasting’ (v.21).

  3. Quarrelling
    Paul writes that their ‘quarrelling’ is another reason that he sees them as ‘unspiritual’. We must avoid taking sides, where ‘one says, “I follow Paul” and another “I follow Apollos”’ (v.4).

All of these stem from an inflated view of our own importance. These are ‘unspiritual’ attitudes. These sorts of attitudes are all too common in fallen humanity, infecting the world, and sadly the church too.

We need to understand that all of us are utterly dependent on God. One plants a seed, the other waters it, but God makes it grow (v.6). Planting and watering are important, but they are relatively easy. Only God can do the difficult bit and make plants, people and churches grow.

You do have a role to play. First, God uses you to bring people to faith. Apollos and Paul were those ‘through whom [the Corinthians] came to believe’ (v.5). Second, God will reward you. The person who plants and the person who waters have one purpose and each will be rewarded according to their own labour. Third, you are ‘God’s co-workers’ (v.9). God has chosen not to do it on his own. He chooses to use you.

Being used by God is a huge privilege. Not only are you God’s ‘co- worker’ (v.9) – you are ‘God’s field, God’s building’ (v.9). People try to build their lives on many things – money, education, job titles, possessions, and so on, but Jesus is the only sure foundation (v.11).

Furthermore, Paul goes on to write, ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?’ (v.16). Therefore, he writes, ‘I don’t want to hear any of you bragging about yourself or anyone else. Everything is already yours as a gift… and you are privileged to be in union with Christ, who is in union with God’ (vv.21–23, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that we are fellow workers with you and that it is you who makes things grow. Keep us from pride and boasting, jealousy and quarrelling. Help us to guard the unity of the church.

Old Testament

1 Chronicles 24:1-26:19

The Divisions of Priests

24These were the divisions of the descendants of Aaron:

The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 2 But Nadab and Abihu died before their father did, and they had no sons; so Eleazar and Ithamar served as the priests. 3 With the help of Zadok a descendant of Eleazar and Ahimelek a descendant of Ithamar, David separated them into divisions for their appointed order of ministering. 4 A larger number of leaders were found among Eleazar’s descendants than among Ithamar’s, and they were divided accordingly: sixteen heads of families from Eleazar’s descendants and eight heads of families from Ithamar’s descendants. 5 They divided them impartially by casting lots, for there were officials of the sanctuary and officials of God among the descendants of both Eleazar and Ithamar.

6 The scribe Shemaiah son of Nethanel, a Levite, recorded their names in the presence of the king and of the officials: Zadok the priest, Ahimelek son of Abiathar and the heads of families of the priests and of the Levites—one family being taken from Eleazar and then one from Ithamar.

7 The first lot fell to Jehoiarib,

the second to Jedaiah,

8 the third to Harim,

the fourth to Seorim,

9 the fifth to Malkijah,

the sixth to Mijamin,

10 the seventh to Hakkoz,

the eighth to Abijah,

11 the ninth to Jeshua,

the tenth to Shekaniah,

12 the eleventh to Eliashib,

the twelfth to Jakim,

13 the thirteenth to Huppah,

the fourteenth to Jeshebeab,

14 the fifteenth to Bilgah,

the sixteenth to Immer,

15 the seventeenth to Hezir,

the eighteenth to Happizzez,

16 the nineteenth to Pethahiah,

the twentieth to Jehezkel,

17 the twenty-first to Jakin,

the twenty-second to Gamul,

18 the twenty-third to Delaiah

and the twenty-fourth to Maaziah.

19 This was their appointed order of ministering when they entered the temple of the Lord, according to the regulations prescribed for them by their ancestor Aaron, as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded him.

The Rest of the Levites

20 As for the rest of the descendants of Levi:

from the sons of Amram: Shubael;

from the sons of Shubael: Jehdeiah.

21 As for Rehabiah, from his sons:

Ishiah was the first.

22 From the Izharites: Shelomoth;

from the sons of Shelomoth: Jahath.

23 The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third and Jekameam the fourth.

24 The son of Uzziel: Micah;

from the sons of Micah: Shamir.

25 The brother of Micah: Ishiah;

from the sons of Ishiah: Zechariah.

26 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi.

The son of Jaaziah: Beno.

27 The sons of Merari:

from Jaaziah: Beno, Shoham, Zakkur and Ibri.

28 From Mahli: Eleazar, who had no sons.

29 From Kish: the son of Kish:

Jerahmeel.

30 And the sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder and Jerimoth.

These were the Levites, according to their families. 31 They also cast lots, just as their relatives the descendants of Aaron did, in the presence of King David and of Zadok, Ahimelek, and the heads of families of the priests and of the Levites. The families of the oldest brother were treated the same as those of the youngest.

The Musicians

25David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service:

2 From the sons of Asaph:

Zakkur, Joseph, Nethaniah and Asarelah. The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision.

3 As for Jeduthun, from his sons:

Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six in all, under the supervision of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the Lord.

4 As for Heman, from his sons:

Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shubael and Jerimoth; Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti and Romamti-Ezer; Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir and Mahazioth. 5 (All these were sons of Heman the king’s seer. They were given him through the promises of God to exalt him. God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.)

6 All these men were under the supervision of their father for the music of the temple of the Lord, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God.

Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the supervision of the king. 7 Along with their relatives—all of them trained and skilled in music for the Lord—they numbered 288. 8 Young and old alike, teacher as well as student, cast lots for their duties.

9 The first lot, which was for Asaph, fell to Joseph,
 his sons and relatives 12
the second to Gedaliah,
 him and his relatives and sons 12
10 the third to Zakkur,
 his sons and relatives 12
11 the fourth to Izri,
 his sons and relatives 12
12the fifth to Nethaniah,
 his sons and relatives 12
13 the sixth to Bukkiah,
 his sons and relatives 12
14 the seventh to Jesarelah,
 his sons and relatives 12
15 the eighth to Jeshaiah,
 his sons and relatives 12
16 the ninth to Mattaniah,
 his sons and relatives 12
17 the tenth to Shimei,
 his sons and relatives 12
18 the eleventh to Azarel,
 his sons and relatives 12
19 the twelfth to Hashabiah,
 his sons and relatives 12
20 the thirteenth to Shubael,
 his sons and relatives 12
21 the fourteenth to Mattithiah,
 his sons and relatives 12
22 the fifteenth to Jerimoth,
 his sons and relatives 12
23 the sixteenth to Hananiah,
 his sons and relatives 12
24 the seventeenth to Joshbekashah,
 his sons and relatives 12
25 the eighteenth to Hanani,
 his sons and relatives 12
26 the nineteenth to Mallothi,
 his sons and relatives 12
27 the twentieth to Eliathah,
 his sons and relatives 12
28 the twenty-first to Hothir,
 his sons and relatives 12
29 the twenty-second to Giddalti,
 his sons and relatives 12
30 the twenty-third to Mahazioth,
 his sons and relatives 12
31 the twenty-fourth to Romamti-Ezer,
 his sons and relatives 12.

The Gatekeepers

26The divisions of the gatekeepers:

From the Korahites: Meshelemiah son of Kore, one of the sons of Asaph.

2 Meshelemiah had sons:

Zechariah the firstborn,

Jediael the second,

Zebadiah the third,

Jathniel the fourth,

3 Elam the fifth,

Jehohanan the sixth

and Eliehoenai the seventh.

4 Obed-Edom also had sons:

Shemaiah the firstborn,

Jehozabad the second,

Joah the third,

Sakar the fourth,

Nethanel the fifth,

5 Ammiel the sixth,

Issachar the seventh

and Peullethai the eighth.

(For God had blessed Obed-Edom. )

6 Obed-Edom’s son Shemaiah also had sons, who were leaders in their father’s family because they were very capable men. 7 The sons of Shemaiah: Othni, Rephael, Obed and Elzabad; his relatives Elihu and Semakiah were also able men. 8 All these were descendants of Obed-Edom; they and their sons and their relatives were capable men with the strength to do the work—descendants of Obed-Edom, 62 in all.

9 Meshelemiah had sons and relatives, who were able men—18 in all.

10 Hosah the Merarite had sons: Shimri the first (although he was not the firstborn, his father had appointed him the first), 11 Hilkiah the second, Tabaliah the third and Zechariah the fourth. The sons and relatives of Hosah were 13 in all.

12 These divisions of the gatekeepers, through their leaders, had duties for ministering in the temple of the Lord, just as their relatives had. 13 Lots were cast for each gate, according to their families, young and old alike.

14 The lot for the East Gate fell to Shelemiah. Then lots were cast for his son Zechariah, a wise counselor, and the lot for the North Gate fell to him. 15 The lot for the South Gate fell to Obed-Edom, and the lot for the storehouse fell to his sons. 16 The lots for the West Gate and the Shalleketh Gate on the upper road fell to Shuppim and Hosah.

Guard was alongside of guard: 17 There were six Levites a day on the east, four a day on the north, four a day on the south and two at a time at the storehouse. 18 As for the court to the west, there were four at the road and two at the court itself.

19 These were the divisions of the gatekeepers who were descendants of Korah and Merari.

Commentary

Divisions for ministry

Here we see the word ‘divisions’ used in a positive sense. ‘These were the divisions of the descendants of Aaron’ (24:1). ‘David separated them into divisions for their appointed order of ministering’ (v.3). ‘A larger number of leaders were found… they were divided accordingly’ (v.4). ‘They divided them impartially’ (v.5). There were also ‘divisions of the gatekeepers’ (26:1,19). ‘These divisions of the gatekeepers, through their leaders, had duties for ministering in the temple of the Lord’ (v.12).

There are some interesting names in his list. Among the singers are the psalmists ‘Asaph’ (Psalm 50 and Psalms 73–83), ‘Jeduthun’ (Psalm 39; 62; 77) and ‘Heman’ (Psalm 88).

Among the gatekeepers (or as often translated, ‘doorkeepers’) are the Korahites. Psalm 84 is attributed to ‘the Sons of Korah’ – and was therefore presumably written by a doorkeeper. This helps us to understand what he meant when he wrote, ‘I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked’ (v.10).

In the body of Christ, we divide up the roles. Each part of the body has a different function. As St Paul writes, ‘The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body… God has combined the members of the body… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other’ (1 Corinthians 12:12,24–25).

The apostle Paul describes the good sense of division (the different roles of members in the body), while seeking to avoid the bad sense (there should be no division or disunity in the body).

It is a great honour to be involved in any way in serving in ‘God’s house’ – whether we are helping with the car parking or welcoming teams, coffee or prayer ministry. Every person has great significance and honour because we are serving in God’s house.

Prayer

Lord, help us to make wise decisions in the assignment of roles in the body of Christ so that everybody gets involved. Help us, your church, to function as a unit made up of many parts in which each part cooperates with all the others with a unity brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Pippa adds

Psalm 92:14

‘They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green’.

Fresh and green sounds good. As life goes by very quickly and I am heading for old age fast, I’m encouraged by this verse. And there is something very beautiful about godly, older people. You can see it in their face. I can think of many that I admire hugely – their wisdom and holy life are an inspiration. I want to keep bearing fruit in old age, and looking fresh and green.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 92:14

‘They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible (Hodder & Stoughton, 2018) p.1849

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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