Today's passage: I Samuel 29
When I was in college, I had to write a paper on self-esteem for one of my education classes. I wasn't trying to put it off, but as the deadline crept closer, I hadn't even read the book on which we were to base the paper. Fortunately, I am a quick reader, and the book was not a snoozer. I read it in a few hours, pulled an overnighter and skipped my first few classes to complete the paper, but was still not finished in time to deliver it to my professor. I turned it in the next day, ready to be marked down heavily for its delay. I lived at home, not on campus, so my mother was not too pleased with my procrastination on the project. I was unbelievably surprised when my graded essay was returned to me with an A+ at the top of the page, and this remark, "The effort you put forth in writing a truly effective paper far outweighs it being late for one day." I remember my mother seeing that comment and saying, "You didn't deserve that grade." She was right. I didn't. My professor had not seen that I had only worked on it for one night. She wasn't to know that I hadn't been writing it for days. Mercy was extended to me. The situation was of my own making, but I received grace. There were other classes that I suffered the consequences, but for some reason, on that day, I was spared them.
David put himself in this situation, servant to the king of Philistia, prepared to go to battle with his countrymen, because of the lies he had told. He had been dishonest with Achish, king of Gath. He pretended his loyalty was with them, which put him in some tough circumstances. Achish now expected David to prove himself. He expected David to fight with them, against his brothers, against his true king, against his best friend, Jonathan. David and his men follow the Philistines to the battlefield, but many of the Philistine princes question this decision. They ask Achish why David should be allowed to fight. They do not trust him. They do not want to be in the midst of battle with David and his men betraying them, fighting for Israel. Achish defends David, assuring them he has been a loyal subject for this couple of years, but relents when the princes stubbornly refuse to allow him to fight. David must have been relieved. I imagine he had probably asked God before marching out to the battlefield to somehow deliver him from this situation. God does. David does not deserve it. He created these circumstances for himself and for his men. He didn't deserve mercy, but God extended it anyway. I know he had no desire to fight his Israeli comrades, some of which he had probably fought side by side against the Philistines. He would have either turned traitor on Achish in the midst of the battle (just as the Philistine princes feared) or commit an act against his nation which would cause him to shudder. God spared him of all this.
If God were to judge me for every sin I committed, I would be dead. If He were to give me the full punishment (besides not giving me hell, thank you Lord, for so great a salvation) for every thought in my head, every word I uttered, every deed I performed I would never have made it out of my teen years. I would never have made it to my teen years. God is merciful to me every day, even when I find myself in a situation of my own making. Still, He is gracious to me. That doesn't mean I have never suffered the consequences, but I sure am thankful every time He spares me when I don't deserve it. And guess what? I never deserve it. Not one single time. If God ever allows me to suffer consequences for something I really did not do, that only makes up for the hundreds of times He has been merciful to me for the many times I didn't deserve it. So the next time I complain about receiving the penalty for something I am not at fault for, I should remember all the times I deserved the F. I need to keep in mind that God has spared me numerous times. When God tests me with something that I shouldn't be punished for, I need to take it. Maybe I didn't deserve it in that situation, but remember the time I did? Does that mean God has a balancing act going on, weighing the times He has been merciful with the times He hasn't? When is there a time He hasn't been merciful? He is merciful every single day. Trust me, if He were putting things on a scale, the times I didn't deserve mercy would put a whole through the floor. And no, God does not have a ledger that shows how he spared me the consequences over there, and not over here. Every time I am put in a situation that I don't think I deserve to be in, I need to remember that the God of mercy put me there. And what will my response be? It's not fair? Is it fair that He has given me mercy in other situations where I most definitely should have suffered the punishment? David was grateful. There will be other times in his future, where it doesn't seem he should suffer the punishment he receives, but if he is truly honest, there are plenty of times he was spared the punishment he deserved.
I didn't get an A+ on every late paper I turned in. Truth be told, I didn't get an A+ on some papers I worked very hard on, that I turned in punctually, that I researched extensively. Sometimes I didn't get the grade I deserved on those. But I would never complain about that, because God and I know when I didn't make the grade in other ways.