Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Regarding Respect

Today's passage: I Samuel 24
     Election time is just around the corner.  Candidates have thrown in their hats, campaign slogans are being decided upon, platforms are being outlined.  I am thankful that we live in a country where every four years, we can choose who we want in place as our leader.  I am thankful, that our leaders, knowing this, stay accountable for their actions.  Our representative government does work, although not always to our complete satisfaction.  Unfortunately, in recent years, I have seen our elected officials do things the way they choose instead of the way their constituents choose.  This has cost many of them their position.  This is why our system does work, because when we are dissatisfied, our voices can be heard in the voting booth.  We can unemploy those who represent us, those who lead us.
     Let me just say it.  Saul is a terrible leader.  He does not deserve respect.  He never goes to God for a decision.  He never talks to Samuel.  If I were a citizen in Israel, and I had an opportunity to vote him out of office, I would without hesitation.  A monarchy system does not work like that.  God tried to warn His people of this back in Chapter 8 when they first request a king.  Samuel gives them the list of cons, but the people wouldn't listen.  Now they are suffering under a despotic tyrant whose fits of jealousy have forced them to track an invisible enemy.  I say invisible, because David was not his enemy.  Saul just chose to believe he was.
     David has the greatest opportunity in the world right now.  Saul takes a nap in the cave where David happens to be hiding.  David's mighty men assure him this is his chance.  Impulsively, David goes to the sleeping king and cuts off part of his robe.  Almost immediately, he regrets this.  This enemy of his, is the king of Israel, the man God established on the throne.  It was not for David to disthrone him.  But the people did not like Saul.  That didn't matter.  God had put Saul there, and until God removed him, the Israelites needed to bide their time.  David realizes that even to cut Saul's robe was a sign of disrespect to this leader.  David recognizes that lifting his hand against the king is to lift his hand against God.  Not because the king was godly, not because the king was a god, but because the king was God's representative, even if he did not represent God well.  God put him on the throne, God would take him off the throne.
Saul Enters a Cave During Search for David--Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
International Publishing Company, 1894

     I voted last election, I will vote in the next election.  It is necessary to proclaim truth.  If our leaders are doing wrong, we certainly need to speak out against it.  Many would say, "Well, I didn't vote for that leader."  That may be true, but there are many who did, and God puts the leaders in place that He wants.  You mean He wants ungodly men in powerful positions?  Sometimes that is the only way to get our attention.  Maybe that is God's way of showing us how good we used to have it, when we used to complain about that.  If the Israelites could have made another choice, now that Saul has been king for a while, they may have chosen to go back to a time of Judges.
      In our country, a leader is chosen by electorate.  People have wanted to disregard that way of voting, but it is the only way for small towns to have their voice heard equally with the big cities.  How many times have I spoken against my leaders?  How many times have I wished I could give them a piece of my mind?  How many times have I said, "I didn't vote for that person, they will not get my respect."  That is the absolute wrong attitude.  God gives us a chance to vote, which I do, and He is ultimately responsible for who is in leadership.  So if I want to lift my hand against my leaders, then I lift my hand against God.  Am I saying that ungodly men are in place because God put them there?  I'm saying ungodly men are in place because God gives us free will and He allows us to elect who we choose.  The Israelites wanted a king.  He gave them a king.  He gave them somebody who was tall and handsome and athletic.  He gave them somebody who would impress the people.  He was not very impressive to God.  They may have wanted to take this decision back, but the Israelites learned a very valuable lesson about what a monarchy was like.
     I need to respect my leaders even if I don't like them.  I should pray for my leaders, vigilantly.  I need to ask God to help me accept their leadership.  This does not mean I can never disagree with them.  This does not mean that I can't be unhappy about any of their decisions.  It simply means that I need to give the office they hold respect, even if I don't have respect for the office holder.  And if I don't respect those in the highest authority, this will eventually trickle down into other areas of authority in my life. 
     David's respect for Saul was so great, that even in the middle of pursuit, even in a time of opportunity, David feels remorse for even cutting off a little of Saul's robe.  He didn't harm him, he didn't injure him, he didn't assault him.  Yet his small action was a sign of disrespect.  David was already a leader, he was leading a great deal of men, and to show even the slightest insult to their king was to say it was okay.  It was not okay, and that is why God convicted him of it right away.
     I will be voting in the upcoming election.  I will cast my votes for the men and women I feel will best lead this country, but it is in God's hands and if He allows someone to lead that I am dissatisfied with, it must be for some reason I do not see.  It will fulfill His plan.  To rail against it, is to tell God He does not know what He is doing.  To fight and complain and be disrespectful is to say that God does not have it all under control.  He does.  Should I vote for truth?  Yes.  Should I proclaim truth?  Yes.  I just need to be careful to do it in a respectful way.  Get on my knees, not in their face.  Pray for our leaders.  Write letters to them to encourage them to do right.  Make the phone calls.  But fight against the legislation, not the legislator.  I cannot tell my children to "Honor father and mother" and expect them to do this if I am belittling those in leadership above me.  If I talk badly about my boss, my supervisor, my pastor, my alderman, my mayor, my president, then I am not setting a very good example.  David knew that to expect respect, he had to give it.  I would be wise to follow David's example.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Today's passage: I Samuel 23
     "Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines:  therefore they called that place Sela-hammahlekoth."
     My heart and mind are sometimes divided.  My heart says to do one thing, while my mind says to believe another.  I hate taking sides.  I want everyone to be right.  I want to see everyone's point of view.  The only way to get my heart and mind on the same page is to pray that God will bring them together.  As a mother especially, my heart and mind are divided on how to handle situations in my children's lives.  Do I help?  Do I let him figure it out for himself?  Praying is the best antidote to this predicament. 
     Saul was divided.  Sela-hammahlekoth means "rock of divisions" because Saul felt torn between continuing to pursue his perceived enemy, David, and his real enemies, the Philistines.  Saul has had his soldiers tailing David everywhere he goes.  When he loses sight of him, he has spies throughout the land who are able to report David's whereabouts.  When Saul has a lead, he sends men after him, in hopes to destroy him. 
     In this passage, David goes to help Keilah, where the Philistines have pillaged a threshingfloor.  David consults God about this first.  Actually, he consults Him twice.  Maybe since the priests being killed, David feels on shaky ground with God.  Their deaths would have weighed heavily on David, and he wants to be sure to ask God before proceeding with a particular plan of action.  Should he go to Keilah, a gated city where he could easily be hunted down by Saul and trapped, or should he let the king himself aid Keilah?  God says go.  Does God mind that we make sure of a decision?  I don't think so.  David asked twice, God answered twice.  God doesn't try to be mysterious with us, His will is not some mystical puzzle that we have to figure out.  Searching His Word and praying will reveal it to us, although sometimes only a piece at a time.  How David would escape from Keilah, with Saul in pursuit, would be information for which David would have to wait on God.
     When Saul is told that David is in an actual city, not hiding in caves or the wilderness, Saul is elated.  He believes God has delivered David into his hand.  Saul is mistaken.  Saul has not consulted with God about this matter, if he had, he would know that he should not be chasing after David at all.  It is dangerous to look at circumstances and assume God is with us, or God is against someone else, unless we have first prayed to Him and asked Him if He is.  Did Saul pray?  Doubtful.  Did Saul seek God?  Unlikely.  Saul was consumed with jealousy.  He was allowing that to motivate him.  In these circumstances, God could only be on one side.  God cannot be divided.  God's nature cannot be on two sides at once.  The only way God could have been with both of them, was if God's plan was for David to go to Keilah to be captured, and even then, God would still have been on David's side, He would have just used the situation to accomplish something in David's life.  If we have prayed about a situation, but God does things differently than how we were expecting, that does not mean He has suddenly deserted us, and is now with our enemy.  It just means God is using these circumstances to allow us to accomplish something more for Him, even though it may seem like our enemy has won. 
     When David is able to escape from Saul and hide in the wilderness, Saul is angry.  He was certain that he would be able to destroy David.  Now he has to choose whether to go after the Philistines who have been using Saul's focus on David to wreak their own havoc, or to continue in his quest to have David captured.  If Saul had bothered to go to God with any of this, the choice would have been clear.  For a change, Saul puts his selfish desires on hold and actually does what is best for his country by going after the Philistines.  It is at Sela-hammahlekoth that he makes this decision.
     One of my favorite quotes is one from Abraham Lincoln which says,  "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."  If I am not sure whether I am on the right side or not, I need to pray and ask God to show me.  He will.  If I am on the wrong side, He will reveal that to me, so that I can get on the right side.  God cannot be divided.  If I am on the right side, and I am sure I am on the right side (maybe I have to ask Him more than once) but it seems that everything is going against me,  I have to assume that God will reveal that I am right in the long run.  Maybe it may look like my enemy is winning, but God will reveal the truth in His time, and I do not have to help Him out.  When I take God's side, I am always right.  But I better be sure that it is God's side that I am on.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Today's passage: I Samuel 22
     I have always loved the story of Robin Hood.  I've watched movies, cartoons, TV shows about the noble turned outlaw who brings justice to England by stealing from Prince John and showering the peasants with riches.  I'm not endorsing this kind of behavior, but it makes for a fun story. 
     The next several chapters in Samuel seem to be the beginning of David's "Robin Hood" days.  Maybe Robin Hood was loosely based on David's life.  Can you see the similarities?  David lives in forests and caves, think Sherwood Forest.  David is surrounded by mighty instead of merry men.  They flee from town to town to escape the king who is after them.  The only thing missing is the "rob from the rich to give to the poor" theme.
     God had already prepared David for roaming the countryside.  When David was a shepherd, he would have led his sheep to many pastures, to many streams.  David would have been very familiar with the land, because as a shepherd, he had to be.  David had no idea this was knowledge he was going to need in the future, but it was.  He knew where enemies resided, he knew the borders, he knew the landscape.  I wonder if David felt a little like Moses in the wilderness.  I wonder if David thought about Moses and his ancestors as they wandered the length of Israel, not being yet able to settle in the Promised Land.  When he started to feel discouraged, maybe he remembered that he was not the only Israelite who had a season of wandering.
     David secures the safety of his family in Bethlehem.  He asks the king of Moab to shelter them until he is no longer in danger.  David probably figures that Saul would have no qualms harming his family, taking them as hostages, to coax David out of his hiding place.  The king of Moab agrees, not at all concerned about angering Israel's king.  An enemy of Saul's was a friend of his.  David uses this to his advantage.  Unfortunately, as we saw in last chapter he also used his celebrity and his relationship as son-in-law to the king to his advantage as well.  Ahimelech is discovered to have helped David (thanks to Doeg the Edomite).  Saul requests a conference with him, and Ahimelech is surprised to learn that David had lied to him.  Completely.  Ahimelech cannot convince Saul that he had no knowledge that David was a fugitive.  Saul believes him to be in league with David.  Ahimelech and all the priests of Nob are executed.  Only Abiathar, Ahimelech's grandson (I think) escapes.  Doeg the Edomite (who would not care at all what God's Word said about how to treat a priest) is the only man who will lay a hand on God's men.  No other of Saul's servants will do this dastardly deed. 
     Abiathar locates David.  He reports to David what has happened in Nob.  I'm sure David is greatly affected by this news.  "And David said unto Abiathar,...I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father's house."  Really there is no excuse I can offer for David.  He was responsible, he was the reason.  Ahimelech may have elected to help David anyway had he known the truth about why David had come to him.  But that should have been Ahimelech's choice.  He should have been able to choose for himself whether he was going to defy the king and help the outlaw, not be deceived into it.  Was it right for Ahimelech to aid and abet David?  Absolutely.  God was with David.  But Ahimelech was tricked.  I'm sure David felt the full weight of responsibility for the outcome.  Would it change David's future behavior?  We shall see.
     Robin Hood may have been a legend.  David was real.  David's actions brought real consequences.  Our choices in life affect others.  I'm sure if David could take back these actions, he would have.  If he could have seen the forest for the trees, he may have behaved differently.  Nothing I do in this life affects only me.  My choices affect others around me.  My sin will taint other lives, whether I choose to believe that or not.  My good choices will produce good results and will be a good influence.  My poor choices will bring about bad results and bad influences.  Abiathar had no where else to go.  Now he had no choice but to run with David, because to do otherwise would mean death.  Saul would never be convinced that Abiathar was not involved in a conspiracy against him.  David is still God's man.  He failed, as we all fail.  He will fail again, as we all will fail again.  Still God is merciful to us and gives us chance upon chance to do better. 
   Although I love the story of Robin Hood, I can't say that I approve of his methods.  Stealing is never right, no matter how it is fashioned.  Deceit is wrong whether you are a fugitive storybook hero, or the king's fugitive son-in-law.   And the results do not bring about a happy ending.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Little Truth

Today's passage: I Samuel 21
     In a day where we have electronic devices that give us information at a moment's notice, Ahimelech the priest was at a great disadvantage.  He did not have a computer to access the morning news reporting about David fleeing from Saul.  He couldn't text his friends in the palace to verify David's story.  He didn't have an I-pad that had an app for fugitive lists.  Ahimelech had to do something that few of us need to do today.  He had to trust David.  He had to believe that David was telling him the truth.  Of course, David wasn't.  Saul had not sent David on a mission, David was the mission.  David was not in Saul's service now, but he pretended to be. 
     David had a reputation that preceded him.  He was a kind of celebrity in Israel.  He had beaten the giant, he had killed other Philistines, he had married the king's daughter, he was known to be a man of God.  So Ahimelech does not feel the need to check out David's story.  He believes him.  He may have also been a little dazzled by David.  This famous man was in his tent, asking him for bread.  Who wouldn't be a little star struck?
     David was not perfect.  David chose to lie his way out of the situation, so he could seek safety and so he could satisfy his hunger.  God did not strike him down with lightning for this, but there is a much deeper issue.  David must have been trustworthy, but would he continue to be?  Would David burn a bridge with Ahimelech, when the priest learned the truth?  Would Ahimelech feel as if he had been played for a fool?  Nobody likes to feel foolish.  Nobody likes to have egg on their face.  David was only concerned about the rescue, not the relationship. 
     It is never to our advantage if a person looks at us with skepticism, it is never to our credit if someone has to refer to other sources to secure whether we are being truthful.  We need to deal truthfully in all areas of our life, not just generally.  Just because David did it, doesn't mean he got away with it.  He did what he felt was necessary, but God could have made another way for him, if he had elected to wait on Him.  This became an unfortunate pattern in David's life, which extended down into his children.
     Lying takes many different forms in excuses, deceit, pretense.  God wants us to be rid of all of it.  I would like to think that I have never been involved in any of it, but if I examine myself, I have.  It is not worth it.  It will cost me trust with my children, it will cause my friends to be wary, it will make me less useful for my Lord.  How honest am I with the police officer when he pulls me over for a ticket?  Do I pretend I did not realize I was going so fast or didn't see the "No Parking" sign?  When I am craving chocolate and there are only two cookies left, do I tell the boys there is no dessert so I can pocket them later because I don't want to admit to my selfishness?  When I am asked how I like someone's haircut, do I smile and rave when I hadn't even noticed, or truthfully am not that crazy about the new style?  I would like to think that God does not really care about these silly little things, but He cares about it all.  If I want to be honest, I have to first start with being honest with myself.  And truthfully, really truthfully, I could improve in this area. 
     In a world where a handshake means nothing, every story has to be checked with snopes, and someone's word has to be challenged, honesty is important.  If God's people can't be trusted in every area of life, how can we be trusted to be telling the truth about God?  That is why we ultimately need to be honest in all of our dealings.  If someone discovers we were dishonest about something small, they will automatically assume we will be dishonest about something big.  And nobody's soul is worth that.  Honestly, it is not. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kings and Criminals

Today's passage:  I Samuel 20
     One of the greatest fears of my life is to be the victim of a violent crime.  I have been afraid of many things over the years, but little fills me with as much trembling as that thought.  Of course, I have great fears for my children as well, but concerning my own person, the violent crime thing still tops my list.  That's not to say I am not afraid of other events, but I give myself credit that I could keep panic from setting in during other situations.  Perhaps it is my greatest fear because I'm fearful how I would react.  Perhaps it makes me fearful because I am not sure I could respond with grace.  I pray I never have to find out.
     I am trying to get into David's head.  I am wondering why the shepherd boy who had slain a lion, a bear, a giant,  and two hundred Philistines should be afraid of the king of Israel?  There is no question that David is afraid.  He tells Jonathan, "there is but a step between me and death".  And he is right.  Saul is determined to kill him.  But David had already been anointed by Samuel as the next king.  How could he think God had changed His plans?  Fearfulness causes us to do a lot of crazy things.  It just seems strange that David would be fearful of Saul. 
     I think the difference is, Saul was God's anointed at this time.  He sat on the throne, and as far as David is concerned, that means God's hand is upon him.  David had nothing to fear against the Philistines, because they were God's enemy, he would not be afraid to take their lives, because he knew he was in the right.  David had a holy respect and reverence toward the man God had placed on the throne of Israel.  This was who God intended to reign, and David felt defenseless because he would not harm the man God anointed as king. 
     David was not sure if he was right in this situation.  The uncertainty of whether he was in God's will, caused David to be fearful.  David makes a few missteps in this chapter because he was afraid.  Who of us wouldn't?  I have made some wrong decisions because I was fearful, and it takes a real calming of the Spirit to proceed cautiously but wisely.
     When we are fearful, we tend to take matters into our own hands.  David is certain that if he goes to dinner that night, it will be his last supper.  He devises a lie to find out Saul's intentions towards him.  Several times in the Bible, we see how people in the Bible tell a "little white lie".  I don't think I really need to go there.  I think we all know lying under any circumstances is wrong, but God is merciful to us.  We do have to be careful because it is not something we want to make as a continual pattern in our lives, especially when we are afraid.  I don't know how God would have handled the situation, but I know we will never find out since this is the way David chose to handle the matter.  What is more disconcerting, is that he persuades Jonathan to tell the lie for him.  This will put Jonathan in great jeopardy.  Fearfulness blinds us to the danger to which we expose other people.
     Being afraid will cause us to doubt whether we are in God's will.  We assume that if we are in dangerous circumstances, we must be doing something wrong.  David says, "if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself".  We should search ourselves often.  But if the Lord does not reveal to us that we are involved in sin, we should not automatically assume that God is punishing us, or trying to probe a confession like a detective in an interrogation room.  God doesn't always put us in a frightening situation because He wants to scare the sin out of us.
     Fear caused David to doubt the person he trusted most.  Jonathan had to convince David that he was not involved in a murder plot against him.  David knew this deep down, but nervous anxiety gnawed at him to need Jonathan's reassurance.  Jonathan does, and perhaps this is also why he is willing to lie for David, to prove his loyalty.  This put Jonathan in an awful predicament, and an unfair one too.  Jonathan should not have to prove his friendship, but he loved his friend, understood his fear, and was willing to go the extra mile for him.
Jonathan sends a message to David by shooting an arrow--Taken from Standard Bible Story Reader, Book Three
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
     Jonathan says something that I think is very telling.  He tells David, "and the LORD be with thee, as he hath been with my father."  Saul must have put on a show as being very Godly.  The Lord has not been with Saul for a very long while, He has even promised to take Saul off the throne.  Yet, this is Jonathan's father, and he sees God's hand on him.  I'm thinking, if I were David I would tell Jonathan to take back that statement, because if God has been with Saul these last several years, I would rather take my chances on my own.  I'm not sure how the temper tantrums and mood swings still signaled godliness to these two men but I guess since Saul remains on the throne, they assume God is still with him.  God has still allowed him to reign, but I don't think God is still with him.  This is what can make us the most fearful, when we look at circumstances in life, and make assumptions.      
     David and Jonathan assume that because God had not removed Saul from the throne, he was in the right, and they were in the wrong.  God has His own timetable.  God has His own reasons for doing things, and it is not for us to find out why.  If He chooses to reveal His reasoning to us, He will.  In the meantime, we have to trust God.  What does that mean?  I'm going to make up a word.  Trusting God is what I will call a genericalization.  A what?  You know, one of those intangible statements we make to assure people, but really have no idea how to explain.  Trust God.  How do I do that? Maybe instead of saying that I should say: Remember God's promises.  That is something tangible.  Go to His Word, and list all of the places where He says how He will protect us, how He will take care of us.  David's psalms are a great resource for those kinds of verses.  Reading this chapter in I Samuel, I think he knew a little bit about being frightened and depending on the God he could not see to help him.  But what if trusting God means death? For David, he was not so sure it didn't.  God has promised me a home in Heaven if I have accepted His Son as my Savior.  What is so fearful about that?  That is a promise our Christian brothers and sisters in Indonesia, Syria, and Libya are trusting in today.  If that is not God's plan, if there is more than one step between me and death, than I just keep taking a step each day, doing what He has asked me to do, waiting for Him to reveal the rest.
     If I am ever faced with a hardened criminal who wants to take my purse at gunpoint, or threaten to do me bodily harm (thoughts which make my blood run cold) I would need to remember God's promises.  He doesn't promise me that I will never be harmed, He promises me that in some way I don't understand He will sustain me, He will get me through, He will be with me.  If I survive the situation, He has promised me I can endure it.  If I don't survive, He has promised me I will be with Him.  I am fearful because I don't think I can endure, which means I am fearful that God will not keep His Word.  But He always does.  So perhaps, that is the crux of David's fears.  He is afraid God did not mean what He said when He told David he would someday be king.  David is afraid that God will not keep His promise to him.  David is afraid that he has failed Him in some way that would constitute God going back on His Word.  I may have to remind myself what He has said, but I will never have to remind Him.  In David's life, a king was scarier than a giant.  He was sure what God had promised against the giant, but he was a little less sure what God had promised against the king.  But God's promise is the same.  He will go with me. No giant, king or criminal can dispute that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nice Guys Finish

Today's passage:  I Samuel 19
     David could not have been a more faithful servant to his king.  In times of peace, he played his harp for Saul.  In times of war, he went out to battle the Philistines.  Everything he was asked to do, he did.  Whatever Saul asked of him, he answered.  What more could David have done? 
     Is there such a thing as being too good?  Is there such a thing as being too perfect?  I hear that all the time.  Girls don't want to date a certain guy because he's too nice.  Guys don't want to hang out with certain girls because they are too perfect.  Huh?  It's a good thing our natures will have changed before we get to Heaven, because that place is going to be too perfect.  Do you know what I think?  Well, I'm going to tell you anyway.  When people make those comments, they are really saying that good is boring.  Nice is uninteresting.  Perfect is safe.  Our sin natures still want to put us in contact with everything that is not good, nice or perfect.  When an actually good TV show makes it to broadcast and has morals, it doesn't last a season.  Reviewers say, "It's too sugary sweet."  What's wrong with that?  When a movie with a principaled storyline makes it to the theater, critics pan the actors, saying they are not believable because their characters are not flawed, they are too perfect.  Shouldn't we strive for that?  David did.  I am not teaching sinless perfection here.  None of us will ever reach a perfect state, no matter what someone teaches.   But shouldn't we strive to be as perfect as possible?  Shouldn't we confess any sin we know about, and seek to rid it from our lives?  Shouldn't we commit more to God, and less to the world?  Shouldn't we attempt to shelter ourselves from ungodly habits and choices? 
     David would have been too perfect for most women today.  He was handsome, he was kind, he was courageous, he was musical, he was athletic.  Girls would swoon for all that.   He was godly.  Well, scratch him off the list.  See that last characteristic, that makes him boring now.  That last characteristic should be the first thing we seek in someone.  Not only in our mate for life, but in our friends.  We should want to hang out with people who love God.  I was blessed to have some godly friends as a teenager.  And I can tell you, our times together were never boring.  We didn't always talk about God everywhere we went (although there would have been nothing wrong with that) but when we went places and did things together, we didn't have to be concerned about who would need the car keys to drive home, who would bring the change of clothes so Mom and Dad wouldn't smell the marijuana on our clothes, who would look old enough not to be ID'd at the liquor store.  We didn't wonder about which one of us might need a phone call the next day to make it to school because of our hangover the night before, or who was going to need a cover story so we could spend the night with our boyfriend.  Trust me, I knew plenty of people (and had many school friends) who did those things for fun.  Was it really fun?  I can't see it.  My friends and I had great times, and guilt free.  If good is boring, we were bored all the time, and didn't know it.
     David was a nice guy.  He loved God.  He had a godly friend in Jonathan.  He wanted to serve the Lord.  Saul hated him for all this, by the way.  He was willing to deprive his son of his best friend, and make his daughter a widow, because he was jealous of all that David had accomplished in his young life.  He saw the choices that David made, the choices to do right, and it angered him.  Saul always seemed to make the wrong choice.  This evil spirit would drop on him and completely alter his mood and behavior, and he hated being controlled by that spirit.  But he stopped allowing himself to be controlled by the Holy Spirit so there was plenty of room for demons.  Today, as a Christian, I cannot be controlled by an evil spirit.  I can yield to it's temptations, but it can't control me.  After salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside me, and He will not make room for any other spirits.  I can choose to ignore Him, but He will never leave.  Those in the Old Testament did not have the luxury of having God's Spirit with them always, He would dwell in an open heart for a period of time, but not permanently.  David's heart was open.  If his life seemed too perfect, read a few more chapters. 
     I am far from perfect, but it is what I strive for every day.  I try to engage in things that will help me grow in the Lord.  I waited for a man who not only claimed to love Christ, but showed it.  Don't just believe what a man says, watch his life.  He will tell you nearly anything, if he thinks he can somehow win you.  And just because he goes to church (even faithfully, because if his parents make him, as they should, it doesn't mean he wants to be there) doesn't mean he loves God.  David's love for God was obvious.  He never had to be told to do things for Him, he did them out of his love for God.  Rewards and blessings follow when we are doing things for Him.  The saying goes, "Nice guys finish last."  What I have found, is that nice guys finish the race while all the others have been waylaid with their vices.  Nice guys don't finish last.  They finish.  And I want to finish my race with some nice guys and gals going with me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Today's passage:  I Samuel 18
     Something occurs to me while I am reading the beginning of this chapter.  I'm a little surprised Jonathan did not go out against Goliath.  Jonathan had slain hundreds of soldiers at once.  He seemed to be a brave man.  What would have prevented him from taking on the giant?  I have a theory, but I can't be certain this is how it happened.  A few chapters back, we recall that Jonathan had unwittingly disobeyed his father's order to fast before battling the Philistines.  Defying this order was punishable by death, yet the other soldiers defended Jonathan and would not allow Saul to take his life.  Saul was merciful, although I don't know how happy he was about it.  We do not read about Jonathan again until this chapter.  Perhaps Saul, instead of killing Jonathan, discharged him from his regiment.  This may have not only been a substitute for the death penalty Jonathan would have received, it may have been that Saul saw just how dear Jonathan had become to the people.  Saul was easily jealous.  He may have seen how the army came to Jonathan's rescue, and was fearful for his throne, that perhaps the people might eventually want to install Jonathan on it.  To avoid this, perhaps Saul thought it better to take him off the lines, and allow him to do more diplomatic work. 
     I think it would have been very hard for Jonathan to stand by and watch Goliath challenge their army and their God day after day.  He would have longed to be out on the battlefield, but because of his father's orders, he was forced to do indoor work.  Jonathan would not have been jealous of this young man who challenged Goliath.  He would have been thrilled.  He would have seen a little of himself in this youth.  He would have cheered from the royal tent as David bravely attempted what no other soldier would attempt.  Jonathan's absence from the front lines, as the officer of the Israelite army, would also explain their intimidation of this Philistine.  Jonathan had instilled confidence in his soldiers.  He would have claimed the victory for the Lord, just as David had. 
     When David appears before Saul, Goliath's head in hand, Jonathan identifies with this young man.  When he tells Saul who his family is, a humble family from Bethlehem but a servant of the king, "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul."  David and Jonathan shared a common thread of bravery under unlikely circumstances.  They both believed in a God who could defy the odds, who would protect those who defended His Name.  Is it no wonder these two would be friends for life?  When Jonathan gifts David with the very wardrobe he is wearing, he is identifying David as part of the royal family.  He is signaling to everyone that David is as princely as Jonathan himself.  Not only did David's behavior endear him to everyone within and without the castle, but Jonathan's treatment of him also did.  Jonathan was highly respected, so if David had won his favor, he would also win the favor of the people.  I can see how Saul's jealousy escalates.  Now he had two young popular men living in his palace, delighting the people everywhere they went.  Saul did not receive such treatment.  He was feared, he was obeyed because he was feared, but the people's eyes did not light up when Saul came into the room.  Instead, they averted their eyes because it is what the king would have demanded.  They probably would have anyway to avoid his seeing their disappointment in who their king had become. 
Jonathan gives David his robe, armor and weapons--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Three
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
     David and Jonathan had a common bond.  That is not always easy to come by.  I have learned this as I have gotten older.  In my younger days, I did not know how hard it can be to have and keep friends.  Maybe partly because I moved around a lot, so I was always having to make new friends.  Military families never stayed in one place for long, so reconnecting with friends from the past meant trying to locate them first.  I learned to cut ties.  When I look back, I realize I was pretty fickle.  I didn't mean to be, I was just used to forming new friendships quickly and abandoning old ones because I would probably never see or hear from them again.  Maybe this habit stayed with me a little as I grew older and my friends were more stationary.  Through the years, I have had many best friends.  To choose one over the other would be like treason for me, because they are all dear to me in different ways.  So, all of my best friends reading this, if I have not said it before, you are precious to me.  I can not pretend that I have ever been the kind of friend Jonathan was to David, I know I haven't, but many of you have been a Jonathan in my life, and I thank you for it.  Your support is constant, and your influence is immeasurable.  I count it a privilege to call you my friend, and am honored that God has gifted me with Godly friends.  For those of my friends who have been forgiving of my inconstancy, thank you.  You have shown me what true friendship ought to be, and I have tried to learn the lesson.  I am far from the kind of friend I wish to be to others, but I hope I am getting better.
     "...and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."  Proverbs 18:24b

Monday, August 22, 2011


Today's passage: I Samuel 17:31-58
     "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."  I Timothy 4:12
     How insulted must Goliath have been!  Not only did Israel send this kid out to do a man's job, but an unarmored kid without fighting weapons.  Goliath's armor bearer who went before him carrying his shield was probably even taller than David.  Goliath was furious.  It was as if Israel did not take him seriously.  It was as if this was a practical joke they were playing on a proven warrior.  It is not a joke.  Israel fully expects to see David demolished.  His brothers are already writing a note home to Dad to let him know they tried to stop him, but as the baby brother who tended to get his way, he wouldn't listen.  The medics have their first aid kits nearby knowing they will not have a chance to use them before David expires.  They don't even bother with the stretchers because Goliath will kill anyone who tries to go near David's body.  Goliath has already said that David's carcass will be vulture meat.
     The Israelite and Philistine soldiers hear Goliath and David shouting to each other across the valley.  Goliath is muttering and ranting because a boy stands before him.  But David seems confident, poised, as if he had killed thousands of giants.  David claims the battle for Jehovah and assures Goliath he will be the vulture food this day.
     Goliath ambles toward David, his hefty figure weighed down by his armor.  He almost looks as if he moves in slow motion.  David, unhindered by any armor moves swiftly.  He is agile as he whips the sling around his head.  Goliath lifts his heavy sword and slashes downward, but David's small stature and speed become an advantage, because Goliath misses.  He has to determine where David has moved so he can attempt to slash at him again.  The hillside soldiers watch this scene as if an elephant is lumbering at a pesky flea.  The flea's movements are so quick, that the elephant no soon turns around than the flea is behind him.  David catapults a stone which buries deep into Goliath's forehead.  Ding, dong the witch is dead, oh no, that's another story.  Goliath's armor bearer scurries out of the way as his large shadow hovers closer to the ground.  Armor rattles and creaks as his massive body slams against the rocky terrain.  A breathless David stands on the giant back, unsheaths his sword, and decapitates Goliath with his own weapon. 
     Stunned, the Israelite soldiers process what has just happened, armor up, and pursue the remaining Philistine army.  The Philistines, on the other hand, have already left camp.  They have not had to fight a battle for a considerable while now since they've had a champion to fight all of their battles for them.  They have been lazy and have not bothered to train.  They do not think their fighting will match up all that well with the trained Israelites, and they are right.  Some of them are able to reach the safety of Ekron, but many of the Philistines never make it home alive.
     Saul is curious about David.  This young man who has played a harp in his palace, obviously had some hidden talents.  He knew David, but he wasn't all that familiar with the family.  My study Bible says that he didn't really care about the origins of a harp player, but now that his daughter would be marrying this giant killer, he would want to know who would be related to the royal family.  Which kind of makes me wonder why any father would offer their daughter as a trophy anyway?  I mean, I know that would be great motivation for a soldier, but what if he was a mercenary?  Would you really want to give your daughter over to that kind of man?  At least, even if David was from a nobody family, he loved God.  Saul would not have to worry about her spiritual well-being, not as if that was something Saul would actually factor in when it came to giving his daughters in marriage. 
     David had more to contend with than just going up against Goliath.  He had to battle prejudices against his youth.  Everyone thought he was too young to do the job.  Experience is respected, sometimes revered.  But God did not choose someone who had experience.  He chose David, because it doesn't really matter how old or young someone is, it matters how surrendered they are.  David had given his whole heart to God.  It was because of David's inexperience as a soldier, that God could get all the glory.  It was because David's dependence, that God could help him win the battle.  An experienced soldier might have relied on his training, an untrained soldier would have to rely on God.  When I feel like I am experienced enough to handle a situation or do a job, it may be because of that very reason that God does not use me.  Because who will get the glory in that situation?  When I feel ill-equipped to respond, it may be the very thing God wants to accomplish the task, because I know I can't do it without Him.  I will surely be in prayer and I will surely let Him lead.  I may have natural talents, but God does not always choose to use those, sometimes He uses the unnatural talents, so that He is glorified.  My inexperience may show, my inabilities may surface, but God will give me the sufficiency I need when the time comes.  If I look at others and think, "I could have done that so much better because I have this talent and I have that skill" that is exactly when God will elect someone else.  Why?  Because when accomplishment comes despite abilities, there is only One who can claim success.  There is only One who can take the credit.  When I feel too young, too inexperienced, too skill-less to accomplish something, I can remember David who may have felt the same way too, only he had the confidence in the God who would do the conquering.  My inexperience may show, but it will show Him greater.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Truly Tall Tale

Today's passage:  I Samuel 17:1-30
     Every villain has a story to tell.  Every bad guy has a reason for resorting to villainy.  I don't say this so that I can sympathize with wickedness or excuse evil, I just find it interesting to think about what motivates a person (besides our sin natures) to act the way they do.  Most people are motivated by something in their past history that determines their future actions.  I think if we forget that Goliath was an actual person, not just some story-book giant like the ogres and trolls in fairy-tales, he becomes one-dimensional and we forget that if he made different choices, his story would be much different.  A villain in a movie can only behave a certain way because that is how he was written.  He is not a real person.  Goliath was real, as real as David, and as real as Saul.  He was not just this fictional character to appear so that David could be the hero of the story.
     Remember when the Philistines carried the Ark of the Covenant back to their land after defeating the Israelites (see post: A Comedy of Errors)?  Remember the turmoil it caused among the people of the land?  I don't think it is a far stretch to imagine that Goliath had been a boy, although a rather large boy given that he was a giant, when the Ark arrived in the city of Gath.  This was the second city of the Ark of the Covenant tour.  Not too long after it arrived, all the people in the city (Goliath too?) became covered with these boils.  Itching, smelling, no relief boils.  Goliath probably runs to his mom and pleads with her to give him some relief.  She is helpless.  Herbs don't work.  Potions don't help.  Praying in the temples to their gods, bringing those gods offerings, scraping at these tumors, nothing seems to bring relief.  Goliath is miserable.  Perhaps he had even seen people die from this malady.  The men of the village conference together and determine that this is the fault of the Israelites' God.  The only way to appease this God they did not worship was to send that wretched box out of their town.  Let their fellow Philistines deal with it.  Goliath may have remembered the gold box being hoisted into an ox cart and disappearing down the dusty road towards Ekron.  Slowly, the boils start to scab over and heal.  Relief at last.  Goliath would remember this curse upon their city by Israel's God.  Instead of recognizing His power, he would let it fester and attempt to prove that the gods of his country were stronger.  He could have made a different choice.  He could have tried to find out more about this God he didn't understand.  He could have sought out an Israelite in a nearby town and asked questions.  But to do this would be to turn his back on everything he had been trained to believe.  It would mean he would have to not look at the Israelites as his enemy.  It would mean admitting that his family had been teaching him wrong all these years.  Not many people are willing to make that leap.  Not many people today are willing to look at their circumstances in that way, why should Goliath be any different?  Goliath resolved that one day, he would show the world that his people were the bravest, that his gods were the strongest.
     He must have been well on his way to proving this because the fourth verse of this chapter says that Goliath was a champion.  He was not just a giant, he was a warrior.  His height was intimidating, but his fighting record was more intimidating.  When he challenges Israel to fight him, day after day, it is more than wanting to show his might, it is to show that Israel's God is weak.  This is why he flings insults at them.  This is why he taunts them.  All the anger he has had is spewing forth like an erupting volcano.  This God who had made him, his family, and his townspeople so miserable so many years ago would be shown to be nothing.  Goliath hates Israel's God. 
     How do the Israelites respond to this rage that is hurled at them from across the valley?  Goliath was already a formidable figure, but standing on a mountain across the way, he must have resembled a stone monument.  His armor would have been blinding as it reflected the hot sun.  His booming voice would have shook the ground, causing pebbles to tumble down the mountain that the Israelites were encamped upon.  Every word Goliath spoke threatened to cause an avalanche on the Israelite hillside.  No wonder they were cowering.  It is not surprising that each time Goliath issued the challenge, Saul's soldiers went scrambling for cover.  Until young David arrives.  For days, Goliath had been seeking a fight.  For days, the Philistine giant enjoyed that nobody dared to fight him.  David has no knowledge of this.  He brings his soldier brothers food from home, oblivious as to why everyone seems to be running for their tents.  Maybe Goliath came out at the same time each day, and the Israelites had learned to run and hide before he appeared.  Perhaps David was surprised to feel the earth beneath him move until the voice from across the valley echoed in his ears.  The voice of one who hated David's God.  This was unacceptable to David.  Call them weaklings.  Call them cowards, but don't dare insult Jehovah.  David was not afraid because the moment Goliath claimed that Israel's God was worthless, David knew who would win the battle.  He knew that God would not stand for that kind of disrespect.  David had spent a lot of time with God.  His time in the fields was time spent with the Lord.  David understood God's nature.  And he knew that God would show Himself to be strong.  Saul's soldiers (including David's brothers) would have had a lot of down time.  Sure, there would be times of preparing artillery, making sure the arsenal was stocked, training for battle, but soldiers often have a lot of time to do nothing but wait.  This was time that many of those soldiers could have spent with God.  They could have been reading and memorizing God's Word.  They could have been praying.  And maybe some of them were.  But if some of them were, some of them should have realized that this giant was God's enemy and he could not win.  David could have spent his time in the fields napping.  He could have been lazy, he had a lazy type of job.  He also did a lot of waiting.  He spent it waiting on the Lord. 
David slaying Goliath--Taken from Religion in the Home (Part 4)
By Charlotte M. Yonge, Illustrated by Julius Schnorr Von Karolsfeld
Published by George W. Bertron, 1913
     How we spend our time is what will determine if we are victorious.  Aren't we all guilty of wasting time?  God has convicted me more and more of this.  If I'm going to slay any giants in my life, I need to be prepared.  I can't be prepared if I don't spend any time with God.  David did not go to the battlefield that day, expecting to fight any battles.  But God prepared him, because David allowed himself to be prepared.  I have no idea what God has in store for me today, but I should be prepared for anything.
     Goliath would laugh when he saw this man-child armed with only a slingshot prepared to do battle with him.  What Goliath did not know is that David had already fought some fierce battles protecting his sheep.  In David's mind, he was in the pasture, ready to defend his flock.  And just as Jehovah God had been with him then, He would be with him now.  Goliath thought he could challenge Israel's God and win, possibly because others had challenged Israel in recent years and won.  He thought he could make Israel's God look small, and with Saul as king, he might have won the battle.  Goliath didn't know that God had a secret weapon, and Goliath will fall.  Hard.  Goliath could have chosen to search out Israel's God, but instead he chose bitterness and resentment.  Those things would obstruct him from ever embracing the truth, they would lead to his demise, and they would label him as one of the world's most menacing villains.  Every villain has a story, some villains didn't have to be villains at all.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How Not to be King

Today's passage:  I Samuel 16:14-23
     I have not had my cup of coffee this morning.  Something about sipping my coffee drink (because I load it up with cream and sugar so my husband says it can hardly classify as coffee-he calls it my foo-foo drink) while I am reading my Bible wakes me up and allows my mind to start working.  I settle down into a chair by the computer, switch on a blank blog screen, read, and start typing.  Today, however, along with no coffee, my computer chooses to be disagreeable.  The cursor won't go where I want it to, when I scroll with my mouse, instead of scrolling the page it is behaving like a zoom lens, increasing and decreasing the fonts on the page. When I navigate to a different page, it keeps opening up a new tab.  I think the evil spirit that settled on Saul in the passage this morning settled on me as well.  You see, I have a very small window of alone time in the mornings.  This alone time changes every day.  My kids, who are usually not out of bed until 6:30 or after, switch it up constantly.  This morning, my oldest woke up before 6am.  The older two will watch something on TV in the morning as I'm finishing up, but my littlest guy will not be appeased until Mommy has tended to his every whim.  All this to say, I'm feeling a little out of sorts.  If I had a David around, I might need him to play me some harp music to send the grumpiness away.  I have my routine, and when it gets disrupted, I have difficulty letting go.  This is a little thing.  I know this, so the Holy Spirit is advising me to forge on without the coffee, accomplish what I can with the temperamental computer, and work until youngest starts calling.  Did I also mention that all of these distractions interfere with my focus, so it is hard to really grasp what God is trying to teach me this morning?  No?  Well, there, I said it.  Some mornings I struggle.  I want to get something from God, I read the passage, but all I end up with are crickets.
     As I'm reading the end of Chapter 16, I am feeling a little ornery.  It's the absence of coffee, I'm sure.  Saul's servants have noticed that Saul hasn't been himself lately (like me this morning) and they want to help him.  They want to help themselves too by getting as far away from him as possible.  They say, "Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp..."  In other words, they would be perfectly willing to search the country for this person, if it will allow them to be a good distance from the king.  I'm guessing that having clay pots, javelins, shields, goblets, thrown at them has been tiring.  They will gladly surrender their target practice duties to any of the other servants.  At least Saul is willing to take their recommendation.  At least he is aware that he is not himself, that he needs some help.
      One of the servants recommends David.  He gives David a glowing review.  I'm not sure how he became acquainted with Jesse's youngest son, but he lists to Saul all of David's fine qualities.  David is good with a harp.  Since they were looking for a harpist, probably a pretty important quality to have.  He is a brave warrior (had the servant seen him kill the lion and bear?  how would he have seen this demonstrated?).  David was "prudent in matters" which I gather to mean he would not be a gossip.  If this young man was going to be before the king day in and day out, they needed someone who was not going to divulge all of Saul's moods to the countryside.  The people still needed to have confidence in their king.  I'm sure the country folk would pressure David into revealing the palace's most unbecoming secrets.  The king would need someone who would not succumb to this pressure. 
David Plays for Saul
Public Domain, Source and Illustrator Unknown
     The servant also says that David is a "comely" person.  I'm not sure why the servant sees the necessity in telling Saul how this young man looks, except that it must have been important to Saul.  Maybe Saul only surrounded himself with good-looking people because he felt that was a reflection on him.  In any case, David is handsome, he is easy on the eyes.  But most importantly, but to Saul maybe the least important, is that "the LORD is with him."  This servant understood the importance of not choosing just any good-looking, secret-keeping, young man.  They needed someone who loved the Lord.  They needed someone who could anticipate the changed mood of the king, who would try to overcome it with God's Spirit and God's music.  Saul has David summoned to court, and he is pleased.  He is more than pleased.  He wishes for David to live at the palace so he could be at his beck and call.  Soon, David will be used for target practice, despite all that he tries to do to help his king.  The servants must be relieved that Saul has someone else to rehang the torn down tapestries, or to parchment the broken window through which another chalice was flung, or to covertly confiscate all the sharp objects in the bedchamber. 
     Can you imagine being David, shepherd boy, reporting to the palace for work?  What ideas must he have had before coming to the palace?  This was Israel's first king, and David was going to get to work for him.  Probably the reality of what Saul was really like was jolting for David.  This was their king?  This is how he behaved?  Like a baby who threw tantrums, surrendering his will and being to evil spirits?  The saying goes, "All that glitters, is not gold".  Never assume that people who look like they have it all together, really have it all together.  Never infer that happiness on the outside is happiness on the inside.
     The king of Israel surrounded by luxury, surrounded with aides, was the most miserable man on the planet.  A carefree shepherd boy, probably at times bullied by his older brothers, given the more undesirable tasks of caring for the sheep, on hot days, on rainy days, with little material gain to show for it, may have been the happiest person.  The difference was where God's Spirit rested.  And it rested on David.  Saul's disobedience cost him God's peace.  This peace, especially in a troubled mind, would have been more valuable to Saul than all of his wealth, and even more than his position.  God was training David how not to be king.  And I think, for the most part, David learns the lessons pretty well.  In fact, I think with David's new position as Saul's armor-bearer, he could use a strong cup of coffee.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Insignificant David

Today's passage:  I Samuel 16:1-13
     "And he said, Peaceably:  I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD:  sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.  And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice."
     I have a question.  God calls Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint the next king.  Samuel fears for his life, because if Saul discovers his errand, he will kill him.  This tells me that Saul was never truly repentant at the end of the last chapter, or he would have accepted God's consequences for his behavior.  For him to interfere with Samuel on this, means he had not accepted God's punishment.  That is not my question. 
     When Samuel arrives in Bethlehem, the townspeople are fearful.  They want to know if Samuel has come in peace.  My guess is, Samuel had been known to be Saul's mouthpiece, and Saul had not exactly been an easy king.  The last verse of Chapter 14 says that whenever Saul saw a strong or valiant man, he would recruit him for his battles.  Perhaps the Bethlehemites are concerned that Samuel has been sent for this mission, to scout the town for future soldiers.  But this is not my question either.
David Plays the Lyre--taken from the Standard Bible Story Reader, Book One
by Lillie A. Faris, illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland,
The Standard Publishing Company, 1927
     Samuel assures the people that he has come to sacrifice to the Lord.  This has been his habit in the past, to go from town to town and offer sacrifices.  Samuel presents himself to Jesse, asks them to do their ritual cleansing before offering to the Lord.  Jesse and seven of his sons prepare for this time.  Okay, here is the question.  And I know the obvious answer, but it still doesn't make sense to me.  Why doesn't Jesse call David to the sacrifice?  I mean, I know somebody has to tend to the sheep, but where do they put them overnight?  Surely they have a sheepfold.  Isn't Jesse concerned about the spiritual well-being of his youngest son?  How often had Samuel come to town to offer sacrifices to the Lord?  And if David was always the one to tend to the sheep, how many times had he missed this event?  Maybe this is the first and only time Samuel had come to Bethlehem for this.  That would make it even more significant, which should lead Jesse to call in his youngest son.  Did he just overlook the fact that David wasn't there, until Samuel asks if all the boys are present?  Was Jesse just old and tired and didn't notice things as he formerly did?  That could be, but David has seven older brothers who could have summoned him.  I'm wondering if there is a reason David was deliberately left out.  I don't think the fact that he was tending the sheep is enough of a reason for him to be left out of this worship time.  David doesn't have a clue what is going on up in the town, until someone fetches him and brings him to Samuel.  Was this just God's way of further emphasizing that this young man, who obviously was of no account to anyone, that they couldn't even remember to call him from the fields, is the man God selected?  God had His eye on David. 
Every hymn David sang while leading the sheep to pasture, every prayer David said while allowing the sheep to graze, every harp praise offered up while watching for bears and lions, was noticed by God.  David might have felt unimportant doing these little things, but he did them to the best of his ability, and even though he didn't get to worship God in the usual way, by being called to sacrifice, he still worshipped God.  David's worship was real.  It wasn't ritualistic, it wasn't a list of do's and don'ts.  It was heartfelt.  It was genuine.  I think that we all could take a page from David's worship book.  We all could learn to sit quietly and wait on God.  This is not to say we should abandon church and sit in a field as our Sunday worship.  No, but when we are in church, instead of thinking about the grocery list, or the week's schedule, or the lunch menu, intently listening to what God is saying through the speaker.  When we are not in church, studying God's Book.  Singing to him while we are doing our chores, taking a time to pray quietly to Him, and then waiting for a few minutes for an answer.  Memorizing His Word and meditating upon it.  I think David should have been in "church", but he wasn't really given that option.  Nobody told him that "church" was taking place.  Yet, David's worship was still noticed.  It was noticed because this was something David did daily, not just on occasion.  It wasn't a ritual that David followed, it was a love for God, that I don't think his brothers shared.  God could see this in David's heart, and that is why He selected him to be the next king. 
     What is my worship like?  I go to God's House, because that is what God expects of me, and that is where I will learn and grow and serve, but what about when I am not in His House?  Every other day of the week, is my worship genuine?  Is there worship at all?  I should give God praise every day, not just on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  This is why David's worship was so special, it was every day of the week.  God sees me.  Of the billions of people on this earth, and He hears my every prayer, He sees my daily work as worship to Him.  Wiping the table, sweeping the floor, dusting the bookshelves are all acts of worship when I include Him in the process.  The good thing about those chores are that they only take my hands, my heart and mind can be occupied listening to Godly music, memorizing and quoting Scripture, praying for people.  David had all day to think about God, because in his alone time watching the sheep, it only took his hands.  His heart and mind could be occupied elsewhere, and his daily activities became acts of worship to the Lord.  And God noticed him.  When I feel insignificant, when you feel insignificant, remember that God notices everything.  He doesn't miss your dedication to your job.  He doesn't overlook the time you take to make sure things are done right.  He doesn't forget the prayer you said, or the worship you gave him.  He may not make you a king, but you will have a reward, even if it is just that small nudge from the Holy Spirit inside that says, "You did a good job today.  Be proud.  God loves you and He noticed that." 
     Thank You, God, for making me feel so special.  Thank You that wiping down toilets is just as special to You as planning a missionary banquet.  Thank you that changing out bulletin boards is just as important to You as speaking at a conference.  You get all the glory in all of those tasks and nothing we do for You goes unnoticed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Listening with the Heart

Today's passage:  I Samuel 15:12-35
     Both times when Saul is confronted with his sin of bringing back the Amalekite spoil, he says "they have brought them," and "for the people spared".  He is not willing to take ownership of this deed.  Verse 9 says, "But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them..."    Hmmmm.  Who is telling the truth here?  God or Saul? 
     Then Saul tries to justify "their" actions by saying it was for religious reasons, to sacrifice to God.  Were they going to sacrifice King Agag to God too?  I mean, if you are going to make up a story, make sure all the pieces fit.  The Israelites were not known to give up human sacrifices, they left that to their heathen counterparts.  When Samuel presses him about this disobedience, Saul says, "Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek..." Okay, Saul, stop right there.  That's what I would have said if I had been Samuel.  When God said, "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not..." what part of that sentence meant, and bring the king back to Israel with you?
      Saul further says, "But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been uterly destroyed..."  What he did was only bring back the king, the people are the real violators here because they brought back the livestock, but he adds, "to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal."  So, really, they were thinking about God so its not as bad as that, is it Samuel?  Even if this was all true, even if Saul had only brought back Agag which God said not to do, the people follow their leader.  If King Saul brings something back, it stands to reason that they would too.        
     Only when Samuel pronounces Saul's punishment does Saul come anywhere close to confessing his sin, and even then, I'm not sure he is repentant.  It is like the child who steals the cookie from the cookie jar and once caught, promises never to do that again, and says over and over, "I love you, Mommy, I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy" to avoid his spanking.  In his confession, he tells Samuel that it is because he feared the people that he disobeyed.  So now it is the people's fault?
Saul tears Samuel's Robe--Taken from Treasures of the Bible
By Henry Davenport Northrop
International Publishing Company, 1894

     Then Samuel says something very interesting to Saul which I think prompts a true confession.  Samuel says, "And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent:  for he is not a man, that he should repent."  It is almost as if Samuel has to go back to the basics with Saul.  He has to remind Saul that God is not a man.  God doesn't lie.  God doesn't make a mistake.  It is almost as if Saul had forgotten that God could not be at fault for this.  Being king, he had been used to laying the blame on others.  It had become his habit to allow others to become his scapegoats.  He couldn't do that with God.  He had forgotten that God will not be a scapegoat.  He needed to be reminded that Someone was higher than the king, and that Someone does not make a mistake.  When Saul realizes this, that he is not going to fool the Lord, he comes clean.  It takes a while to get there, but he is at last able to recognize his wrong, without making excuses, and without throwing anyone else under the bus.
     Saul could fool Samuel.  Saul could fool the elders.  Saul could fool the other nations, but God will never be fooled.  He sees the heart, and it is because He sees the heart that Saul will be replaced.  Maybe Saul was genuinely repentant on this occasion, but God knew that it would take reminder after reminder to make Saul the king he ought to be.  God was not interested in continuing that process, at least, not while Saul was on the throne.  God never gives up on us.  He works with us to get us where He wants us to go, but not always in the position we are in.  Sometimes He has to knock us off our thrones so we will listen.  When we are surrounded by all our worldly comforts, we can drown out His Voice.  It takes a lot to hear Him amid all the distractions.  When He takes things away from us, it is so He can get us to a place where we hear Him.  Really hear Him, not the "Yes, dear" kind of hearing that spouses so often give.  He wants us to listen.  Intently. 
    Does that ever happen for Saul?  I can't see that it does.  He doesn't exactly wear earplugs, more like earmuffs.  He hears God, but he never really listens.  God's instructions are like the adult "Wa, wa, wa" in a Peanuts cartoon.  We can listen with our ears, but if we don't listen with our heart too, we haven't really heard anything.  When God tells us something, and we don't respond emotionally to it, I'm not sure we have actually responded.  Going through the motions, not the emotions.  That doesn't mean we have to be a crying mess in everything we do, but doesn't God say to do things "heartily"?  Saul heard with his ears, but he never heard God with his heart.  When I feel that disconnect with God, in my prayer time, in my Bible time, when I am witnessing to someone, I have to ask myself, am I really listening?  My ears are open, is my heart?

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today's passage:  I Samuel 15:1-11
     I have wept over my children.  I have prayed for their strength in this wicked world.  I yearn for each of them not to only to accept Christ, but to embrace Him in their lives so that they will give their lives to serve Him.  Crying for my children is not an unusual thing.  It seems natural.  If they were to fall into sin, I would cry again.  I would fall on my knees and plead with God to deliver them from whatever mischief they were involved.
"It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king:  for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments.  And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night." 
     Not surprisingly, Saul has again decided to do things his way.  He thinks he is wiser than God.  God gives him the express order to destroy, no annihilate, the Amalekites.  Eradicate them, demolish them, obliterate them.  I think "utterly destroy... and spare them not," seems pretty plain to me.  I don't think there is a lot of wiggle room there.  Yet Saul seems to find a loophole.  Actually, he doesn't find one, he creates one.  He almost does everything that God says.  But almost following an order is not good enough.  If I were a pharmacist and I almost filled the medicine order correctly, I could kill someone.  If I were a banker, and I almost gave back the right amount of change, I would be convicted of cheating people.
      Almost obeying God is not obeying.  In fact, I will even go so far as to say that almost obeying is worse than disobeying.  Why?  Because when I disobey, I have no excuses.  It's pretty black and white.  When I almost obey, I want to excuse myself for why I couldn't obey completely.  I want to offer reasons why my disobedience wasn't disobedience at all.  I want to color it gray.
     I really believe God gives this task to Saul on purpose.  What God asks Saul to do is to fulfill a promise He made back in Deuteronomy 25.  It had always been God's plan to "blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven."  Now, God asks Saul to carry out the task.  His failure to do this will allow Amalek to cause future havoc for Israel.  Remember Haman, the wicked fellow in the book of Esther who persuades King Ahasuerus to enact the law to have the Jews destroyed?  Guess his ancestry.  He was a descendant of the Amalekites.  Saul's failure here, is a failure for generations.  That is a good application to remember.  Sometimes my failures follow me, or follow my children.  I shouldn't look at any situation and think, well, I'll just disobey a little.  There is no such thing.  Saul's almost obedience led to an almost destruction generations later.  God gives Saul the privilege of carrying out His orders.  He gives Saul the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.  He leaves one, alright, just not one God intended.
     After Saul disobeys, God speaks to Samuel about it.  Samuel is brokenhearted.  He weeps over Saul, as if he is his own son.  The verse says that he cried all night.  This really challenged me.  When is the last time I cried for someone who was not my child, or in my family.  When is the last time I cried for the leaders of my country?  I have had critical spirits over those in authority, I have prayed for them, not really convinced that anything would change.  When have I ever cried for my President and prayed God would help him in his decisions?  I have prayed that way, but I don't think I have ever earnestly pleaded with God as Samuel did here.  I have never stayed awake all night and prayed for him.  Wouldn't that be something?  Wouldn't it be a challenge if all of our churches took a time to have an all-night prayer vigil for the leaders of our country?  Would it change anything?  Samuel was convinced it would.  You might say, but Saul didn't change, if anything, he seemed to get worse.  This is true.  It seemed pointless for Samuel to waste his tears.  It seems sentimental.  But how do we know, that Saul might not have been a worse king if it weren't for Samuel's prayers?  He still wasn't great, but maybe he would have been worse.  Maybe Samuel's crying to God that night actually spared Saul from committing actions which we may never know.  He may not have been the best king, but maybe he was a better king than he ought to have been because of Samuel.
     Maybe our leaders will never change.  But maybe our prayers, earnest, heartfelt prayers will make them better than they ought to be.  I'm committing my time to let God get a hold of my heart for the men and women who are in office and have a serious time of prayer for them.  I want to weep for them as Samuel wept for Saul.  I want to plead that God will do something in their lives to make them better leaders for our country.  And who knows?  Maybe they will actually commit their ways to Him.  Maybe God is just waiting for us to ask.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Leader to Follow

Today's passage:  I Samuel 14:24-52
     My first job in college was working at McDonald's.  My manager was a soft-spoken man, a Christian, who could be seen mopping floors as often as in the office filling out invoices.  Something about seeing your manager getting his hands dirty with the rest of the workers, gives you a sense of respect for your boss.
     I feel for Saul.  He wants to get things right, but he doesn't know how.  Have you ever met someone who was trying so hard to lead, who was trying so hard to earn respect, and failed miserably?  I have.  I've met people who want to love God and serve Him and at every turn, seem to do the opposite.  It is almost like they don't know how.  The only thing I can recommend to these people is to do things God's way.  If you don't know what that is, like anything else in life, you need to find out how.  You can find out how by going to His House and by going to His Word.  Really, it sounds simplistic, but that is the only way to know what God wants from you.  Reading books that men have written can be very helpful, but unless those are supplements to reading God's Word, all the books in the world will not help.  Saul's life is a good example of someone who had the tools but did not use them.  He had access to one of God's greatest men--Samuel.  But rarely do we see Saul consulting with him, only after he tried his way first, which only created messes for Samuel to try to correct.
     Saul's command for the people to fast until they had suppressed the enemy was not directed by God.  It was Saul's assumption of appeasing God for the displeasure he had already caused Him.  Ordering this fast, in effect, caused the people to sin in a greater fashion because by the time they had battled all day on empty stomachs, they were famished enough to kill the looted livestock right in the field, and eat it without draining off the blood.  This was definitely against God's laws.  So, Saul's attempt to please the Lord, by calling this fast, in essence caused greater displeasure.  This leads Saul to his next decision which is to ask the priest for prayer to determine whether they should go after the Philistines.  He doesn't get an answer.  We have already seen that Saul does not like to wait.  When God does not give him an immediate answer, he wants to know why.  He deducts that there must be sin in the midst, but he does not first ask God if the sin is his.  He immediately guesses that the sin must be among his soldiers.  Another mistake.  We should always check with God about our own sin before going after someone else's.  Jonathan is discovered to be the culprit.  While out in the woods, Jonathan had eaten fresh honey from an open hive.  He was not aware of his father's order to fast.  The people's respect for Jonathan was so great, that when Saul casts lots to determine who had sinned, they do not tattletale on Jonathan.  They could not be sure how the lots would come out, but they were willing to take their chances and even risk their lives for this young man.  Jonathan seemed to be able to demand respect without even trying, something his father was not able to do.  Why?  Because Jonathan did not try to demand it.  He followed God, which earned respect from the people.  He didn't base his decisions on what people thought, he based them on what God thought.  Would these same men have been willing to die for their king?  I think not.  I think the situation would have been drastically different.  Saul tried too hard.  He tried too hard to garner respect from people, and did not try hard enough to respect God, which would have given him men's respect as well.
     It may seem that the world does not respect us.  Actually, in my experiences, they do.  More than they will ever let on.  When we put God first, when we do what He wants from us, respect from others will eventually follow.  They might begrudgingly admit to it, but in moments of weakness, they will admit their admiration.  Not for us, so much, but for our devotion to Someone they cannot see.  I sometimes heard the sniggling remarks when our McDonald's manager mopped another floor.  Many workers had to feign disrespect, because in their estimation, that was beneath a manager to be doing those kinds of menial tasks.  But beneath the outward bravados, I saw workers who felt able to go to him and ask him about things.  I saw the respect in their eyes, if not coming from their mouths.  He did not have to earn respect by ordering us to do these things, although he would often ask us politely to attend to something, because he led by example.  When he saw something amiss, and he was able to do it, he would do it.  When he was not able to, and instead asked us, we usually responded without grumbling, because we knew if he could, he would.  Some people have a natural ability to earn people's devotion.  This manager was one of those people, and I learned a lot just by watching him.  Saul could have learned a lot by watching his son.  He could have learned even more by watching Samuel.  Saul could not watch another king, he was the first.  That is why, he needed God's guidance even more. 
     When I want respect, I need to give God His respect first.  The rest will follow.  Maybe subtly, maybe without a lot of outward demonstrations, but quietly and simply, people will fall in line.  You will be surprised how many people will follow, when You are following Him.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Test of True Character

Today's passage:  I Samuel 13:13-I Samuel 14:23
     "And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised:  it may be that the LORD will work for us:  for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few."
     For all of Saul's faults, he must have been a good father.  Either that, or Jonathan had great character despite his father.  That happens sometimes.  Although parents are important figures in children's lives, not everybody is blessed with Godly parents who teach their children from the Bible.  Yet, some children can overcome this by finding the Lord themselves and living for Him despite the opposition in their home.  I find these young people remarkable.  That can't be an easy task.  It shows something though.  It shows that despite the odds, God can overcome any situation.
     In the last several verses of Chapter 13, Samuel tells Saul that his disobedience has cost him the throne for future generations.  Now, I'm guessing Jonathan would have heard about this.  I'm thinking he was none too pleased with his father's willfullness, because his disobedience had actually brought the punishment more on Jonathan than on Saul himself.  Maybe Jonathan wonders if he can change God's mind?  I'm not saying he is trying to, but maybe he wants to prove to God that he would be a worthy king.  And he most definitely would. Jonathan has so many good qualities, you kind of have to wonder how he came by them.  Not saying Saul did not have any, but this young man is just brimming with possibilities.  Jonathan has a pure heart, free of vengeance or jealousy (we see that when he befriends the future king who will take his place).  He has a confidence without pride.  He has a heart to serve God, and has faith that God will deliver him.  After Jonathan enlists his armor bearer alone to go and fight the Philistines, God allows him to defeat hundreds of men.  Who would go on a mission like that?  The armor bearer tells Jonathan, "Whatever you think, I'm with you."  What?  Jonathan had charisma (like his father).  But he had something his father did not have, he had a conviction that they were God's people and that God would deliver them.  Jonathan did have a plan first, a testing of the waters to see if God wanted them to do this thing.  He didn't just assume God was on their side, because after all, God had not been exactly pleased with Saul's actions as of late.  He told his armor bearer that once they showed themselves to the Philistines, if the Philistines said to wait for them to come over and fight, he would know that God was not in this.  But if they said, "Come over here." then that would be their cue that God wanted them to fight.  Sounds completely opposite from what I would have determined.  I would think, "If they say they are coming over, then I have backup with the Israelite soldiers.  If they say, you come over here, I'm doomed."  Jonathan's bravery allowed him to convince this lone armor bearer to go with him and engage the Philistines in a one-sided battle that led to an Israelite victory.  That's amazing!
Jonathan and his armorbearer attack the Philistines--Taken from Standard Bible Readers, Book Four
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
 The Standard Publishing Company, 1927
  Was Jonathan trying to win God's favor?  Maybe.  I can imagine that Jonathan wanted God to know that he was on His side, even if his father proved not to be.  I can guess Jonathan would have wanted to be the next king.  It is what he had been training to do.  Have you ever tried to convince God of something?  Have you ever tried to convince God that really, if You rethink this plan, it would work out better?   Jonathan would have made an excellent king.  Why would God not have allowed the punishment to fall squarely on Saul, and allow Jonathan to have the throne?  Here's the thing.  I think we see more of Jonathan's character because he would not be the next king, more than if he had been.  I see a young man who responds with graciousness to David, who should have been his enemy.  I see a young man who does not plot and scheme to get around God's will, but accepts it.  Now, maybe he doesn't at first, and that may be why he takes on this daredevil attack with the Philistines, to convince God, but when that doesn't work, he doesn't respond with, "Well, what did I do that for?"  Every thing has a purpose in our lives.  That promotion I wanted?  It went to someone else, how did I respond?  The new house I put a bid on, but was not accepted?  What was my attitude?  The paper I deserved an A on but the teacher gave me a C instead?  Did I grumble about it?  God develops character in us, and these situations in our life fully displays it.  Jonathan did not become king because God wanted to show us how to react when we don't get something we think we deserve (by the way, we don't deserve anything, that is another part of God's grace, that He allows us to have anything).  He put someone in the Bible to be the example of a gracious loser.  He put someone in the Bible to help us see that our first response is not always the right one, that we can be a better example when we lose out.  I'm just glad God didn't start with letting Jonathan lose this particular battle.  God uses Jonathan, not because he was a king, but because he didn't get to be.
      What situations have I grumbled about, what opportunities have I lost that I thought I deserved?  My real character shows when I lose.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...