Monday, May 1, 2017

1 Samuel 24 - Enemy Encounter

As a Christian, my enemy lies within my old sin nature and with Satan hindering me. No person on this planet is my enemy. They are like me, a sinner (though they may not know the extent to which sin has governed their life and they may not know of the righteous God in Heaven who cannot be in relationship to such unholiness). I have no beef with other sinners, even those that sin against me. I won't say that I don't grieve or get frustrated by betrayals and hostilities, but I shouldn't be the one offering hostility. 

In this chapter, David gets the opportunity to come face to face with King Saul who has plotted David's murder and even organized an army to assure Saul's victory over David. Saul was plagued with evil thoughts and threatened by David though David had done nothing but good toward Saul.  Now, David had the opportunity to seize the throne by force and conquer his enemy, but David chose another way. 

David cut a piece of Saul's robe when he was close to him. David's men would have had Saul killed. They joined David's army because they had an axe to grind against the king. David demonstrated he was close enough to have killed the king, but did not. He showed grace to the madman who had so much hatred toward David. 

David bows down to King Saul once he leaves the cave and joins his men. David shows the piece of robe and reports he chose to spare the life of the king and allow God to judge his cause. He could have taken matters into his own hands but he recoginizes that he is better off in God's hands. 

David's gesture of grace overwhelmed Saul. Saul acknowledged that David had done no wrong and that Saul had treated David badly. He is amazed that David didn't harm him. Saul even offers David a blessing and asks David to protect Saul's family when he takes the throne. David promises to care for Saul's family,but returned to the caves where they had been living. 

Even though David had a moment of peace with the king, he also recognized that Saul could turn again.  When we encounter hateful people, we are called to show the love of Jesus, trust God for the results and then beware of future encounters. We don't need to place ourselves one the line of fire so as to stir up more strife. 

We all likely encounter people who are not friendly toward us and who would prefer to see us suffer than to thrive. We live in a world where Satan wields tremendous power, but we don't have to respond in kind. We have a greater power at work in us they may know nothing about. That power will conquer Satan for good one day. For now we recognize the powers that are opposed and we stand on the side of our Lord, Jesus and trust him as we proclaim peace. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

1 Samuel 23 - Seeking Direction

David had by human standards every right to hole himself up and not get involved in the affairs of his people. He was a fugitive from Saul his king. Yet, when he was told that the Philistines were fighting and looting his people in Keilah, he had compassion for the oppression they were suffering. He didn't take action however before praying to God for direction. Even after praying, his men questioned the fight and David confirmed God's direction in prayer. This is one of David's shining moments; it makes you see how he is a man after God's own heart. 

God confirms that He will give victory in battle and he save Keilah and its residents. Saul hears about David's victory and feels he has a prime opportunity to kill David there. David learns that Saul has plans to destroy him in Keilah.  Again, he inquired of God and received knowledge of Saul's plan and the weakness of Keilah and how quickly they would turn on their champion and give him over to the king.  David makes his escape and thwarts Saul's murder attempt. 

No matter whether is is our financial need, our need for wisdom, health, safety or strength, far too often we neglect seeking God in prayer before taking action. We often forfeit a close fellowship with God where He would give us His direction and share His heart with us if only we would pursue it. I think of the hymn that says, "Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer".  Prayer is one of the most important duties in our Christian life, yet one of the most difficult for us it seems. 

David demonstrates that God does hear and respond to our prayers related to the specific devotions we face and He doesn't just respond to spiritual needs but he cares for our physical needs as well. David sought God's mind in prayer and we too have that same opportunity. We can approach the God of the Universe, the one who formed you on your mother's womb and ask Him for wisdom, strength and provision for your day. Will you take time to meet the God who saves you on prayer today?

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

1 Samuel 22 - Facing Danger

David couldn't stay long with the Philistines pretending to have lost his mind, so he continues on to Gath and stays there in a cave.  Many of the discontented Israelites begin to meet him there and join forces with him in escaping the hostilities of Saul.  Saul, however, berates his men wanting to know why he was kept out of the loop when Jonathan his son conspired to keep David safe.  After hearing how Saul interpreted silence of the men as a betrayal, Doeg the head shepherd spoke up.  He had seen David at Nob with the priest Ahimelech.  Ahimelech had provided bread, a spear and inquired of God on his behalf.  This made Saul even angrier that the priests of God were acting to protect David and not favoring Saul, so he sent for Ahimelech and all of his father's family (since they were all priests).

When Saul ordered his men to slay the priests, they refused.  But Doeg being weak of character complied with the king's request and slayed 85 priests and their families - even the women and children.  Ahimelech had not betrayed the king, his involvement in the protection of David made sense based on David's lie to him.  Yet, perhaps hundreds of innocents were killed that day because of Ahimelech's association with David.  In one encouraging note of hope, Ahimelech's son, Abiathar, escaped to find David and let him know of the terrible atrocity.

The family of Ahimelech paid the price of their life for innocently providing David food and protection.  Even those who were not present and not involved were killed because of their relationship to Ahimelech.  This was pure evil being inflicted on the innocent, yet God records this in his written word for us.  Why?  I think it is so that we can know that being in God's service and doing the right thing may not prevent the evil of this world from finding its way to you.  I feel there is a special place in Heaven for these that were slain.  

It is hard for us to understand all of God's ways.  He didn't kill or inflict evil on the priests and their families, but He didn't intervene to save them either.  The children had their potential here on earth taken from them.  They may have been future priests in service to the Lord, but that was wiped out in just one day.  God had another plan for these that were taken.  They were taken to glory early to enjoy fellowship with the Lord forevermore.  God had a message for David; the threat is real and Saul will stop at nothing until he overcomes David.

When we are confronted with evil in this world, we need to cling to our faith even tighter than we ever thought possible.  We may be mistreated or even struck down with illness or hatred, but can we trust that even in this God is continuing to write his story?  Can we trust that there is an even greater glory awaiting us?  As I consider the evil in this world, I see that God is greater than any foe and can save his people and make a name for himself, but He may use my life to secure for Himself a greater glory.  My life is completely in the hands of God and whether it be accident, illness or hostile acts that should threaten to take my life, I can know that my eternity is secure with Him who paid the price for me.

Can evil be stopped?  Only in God's perfect timing and in God's plan.  Can we trust Him even in the midst of threats and anger?  Our faith in God's lovingkindness is demonstrated as we walk through the valleys of life trusting and obeying.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

1 Samuel 21 - Faith and Compromise

David, a man after God's own heart, has seen God do tremendous acts protect him from the wrath of Saul.  He even has the promise that He is to be the next King after Saul.  Yet, after confirming with Jonathan that Saul is bent on seeing David dead, he flees for his life.  On the run, he goes to Nob where he has an encounter with Ahimelech the priest.  David lies about why he is there, claiming to be on a secret mission from Saul the King.  David was in Saul's inner circle so Ahimelech had no reason to doubt.  David even convinces Ahimelech to give him the showbread that was consecrated.  David, a man of great faith and strong character wasn't afraid to take down Goliath, but Saul's wrath was a very different thing.  David would face anyone who defamed God, but he did not defend himself against one who hated him.  In fact, it was his respect for Saul and his position that made confrontation so difficult.

David could have told the truth.  In fact the outcome might have even been better (more on that in the next chapter).  He could have told Ahimelech that Saul was in pursuit and he desperately needed sanctuary.  He could have asked Ahimelech to pray with him for God's protection, certainly God had done that in the past.  But...he didn't.  In the face of overwhelming circumstances, David placed his trust in the spear of his old foe Goliath and not only lied to the priest, but ran to Gath, the place of the Philistines hoping that Saul wouldn't chase him there.  Yet, he was even afraid of the Philistines because of the reputation he had for being a man of war - he would certainly not be welcomed there.  David then played the role of a madman hoping that no one would see him as a viable threat but would leave him alone.

As we read this chapter, we almost want to break out in prose, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."  David lost his faith for a moment in God and tried to devise some clever plan to keep himself from his king and the enemies of Israel.  We read this story and say to ourselves, David, David, David, couldn't you have held onto your faith just a little longer?  You were with a priest!  Certainly, if anyone would hear your case he would have!  If anyone might have sought God for you and protected you, he would have.  Yet, you lied in fear.

I would like to think that I too am a woman of faith.  When I read this chapter, I see how quickly I might even do the same thing David did.  We have seen God work in our lives if we have accepted the offer of salvation.  We couldn't have even come to understand we needed a Savior if God hadn't done a work in our lives.  But we also live in a world that can be hostile toward Christians.  We live in a world where we may not be appreciated by those in power.  We may feel that we need to devise some strategy for escaping notice or we will find ourselves the butt of jokes and mistreatment.  How quickly our faith turns when we are faced with confrontation and hostility.

Compromise will always seem like a viable option when we are challenged to live our faith.  The world doesn't see God for who he is and the world confronts our faith daily.  David later found redemption, but he could never undo the compromise and the results of it.  David is here in scripture as an example to us so that we can know that even the great men of faith have their moments.  We are in good company, yet we need to press on and place our faith in the only power that saves.  Our feeble efforts may work for a moment, but the compromise can have ripples that last a lifetime.  God's glory and reputation here are at stake if we call ourselves Christian.  Phillipians 3:14 reminds us ot press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us.

My dear Christian friend, when we are tempted to compromise, choose the acts of faith instead.   There may be conflict and turmoil, but we will see God's hand of protection and blessing if we will choose him over our own devices.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Friday, February 24, 2017

1 Samuel 20 - In God's Hands

God had just done a miraculous act in the protection of David.  Saul had pursued him, but was thwarted by God and caused to prophesy day and night.  Yet David realizes the threat is continued from Saul and very real.  In this chapter we see that both David and Jonathan place their fate in the hands of God and call upon God to be their witness, yet God does not prevent them from encountering conflict and and needing continued protection.  As the days grow darker for Christians, we can see that David provides a great example of a right response to undeserved hate and dependence on the Lord for his security.  I am struck by the phrase repeated in this chapter, "The Lord is witness between you and me" an affirmation of loyalty, and sincerity between these two friends depending on God.  As we trust in the Lord for our own circumstances, we rely on His witness to be our mark of dependence upon Him.

Reading through this chapter we see that David in speaking with Jonathan identifies Saul has a continued threat against his life for no real reason; 1 Samuel 20:1.  David asks Jonathan to be his ambassador before the king to see if his place is secure or if he should flee.  Notice that David, though secure in his relationship with the Lord, didn't just put himself in harms way.  He was cautious and sought to know true motives.  He designed a test to see if the king would respond favorably without having to place himself in danger.

David displayed wisdom in dealing with the hatred he faced.  He did not presume that God would merely put a force field around him to protect him against real threats.  We too need to be wise in our interactions with an increasingly anti Christian culture.  We want to do right and influence our world for the Lord, but we also need to be aware that there is opposition that could threaten our safety.

Jonathan also placed himself in the Lord's hand and took a stand to remain loyal to David even if it placed him in opposition to his father the king.  Jonathan realized that David was God's chosen person to assume the leadership of the nation and felt no threat from his friend.  Jonathan also wisely realizes that he cannot directly reach out to David and communicate with him for fear of revealing his position and placing his own life in danger with his father so he organizes a way to communicate whether the way is safe for David or if David should flee (1 Samuel 20:18-23).

Even though Jonathan was trusting God to unfold His plans in the life of David and himself, he also knew to act wisely and recognize the danger they faced.  No doubt, God could have intervened to stop the hostile acts of Saul even has he had done with Goliath, but God chose to allow Saul to continue offering him an opportunity to repent and find reconciliation with the Lord.  

As long as we live on planet Earth, we will see hostility, evil and conflict.  How we respond to this conflict will indicate how much we really do believe and trust in the Lord.  We should not be unwise and place ourselves in harms way to presume upon the Lord's goodness, but in active dependence we should bring our situation before the Lord and ask him for wisdom for the day.

As the days grow darker, we know that the Lord's return is eminent.  All the more reason to be purposeful and wise as we reach out to a lost and dying world.  Our calling is to serve the Lord no matter where we are placed.  Not all placements are pleasant, but all are purposeful and necessary to accomplish God's purpose in our lives and in the lives of the people touched by our service.  David actively served the Lord in difficult circumstances.  Will we?

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Friday, February 17, 2017

1 Samuel 19 - Response to Leadership Failure

We are commanded to obey authority.  It is God's order given to us that we might have peace.  There are instances however, in scripture, where earthly leaders may command something contrary to God's direction.  We then must give priority to God's authority.  Saul puts out three hits on David because of his insecurity.  David had done nothing to draw the ire of Saul, but yet there was incredible animosity on Saul's part.

In the first hit on David's life, Jonathan, (David's friend and Saul's son) was ordered to kill David.  Jonathan could have diverted his activity and avoided the order, or he could have not warned David, but murdering an innocent man was against God's law.  He does warn David and attempts to sway his father the king to choose right.  Saul swears by the Lord that he will not kill David.  David is invited back into the king's home and resumes his duties.  Jonathan loved David and he loved his father.  He feared the Lord and worked to restore peace.

In the second instance, we learn that after war had broken out and David successfully fought off the Philistines, that an evil spirit came upon Saul and twisted his thinking about David.  David was playing the harp for Saul when Saul attempted to kill him.  The spear missed and David knew he had to flee.  Michal, David's wife, Saul's daughter let David down through a window to escape at night since the guards had orders to kill him in the morning.  Michal used idols in the house to make it appear that David was in bed, claiming he was ill.  The guards report to Saul (I guess it isn't in good taste to kill a sick man).  Saul ordered the guards to bring David that he could kill him, but the guards discovered the deception.  Saul was furious.  To save face, Michal claims that David threatened her live if she didn't help which seems to turn his ire back to David.

Word got back to Saul that David had fled to Samuel at Ramah, so Saul send men to capture him.  on their way to Ramah, they saw prophets prophesying with Samuel and the Spirit of God came on them and they prophesied as well.  Saul sent men three times with the same result.  Finally, Saul went to Samuel's place and the Spirit of God came on him as well and he prophesied day and night.

Lessons we can take from this passage are:

1.  An earthly leader deserves respect, but is not of higher importance than God
2.  God's command supersedes any king's order
3.  No king can thwart the plan of God
4.  God's people may not avoid conflict, but their security is assured

God could have intervened to confront Saul and protect David at any time, but He chose to allow Saul to act on his choices.  When our leaders choose evil, we must remain on the side of right (we can know right by applying God's word to our hearts).  God's direction is always right.

We are all commanded to give our authorities the respect their office deserves, but if our authorities act contrary to God, then we must rightly obey God and where possible encourage our leaders to do the same.  It is hard to speak out for God when the world runs counter to his commands, but we belong to Him and He will never let us out of His care, even if we must go into hiding.  We can trust God to stand between us and hostile forces after we have done what we can and committed our way to Him.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Nation Divided

Let's face it; our nation is more divided than ever.  Races divided claim that each side is bigoted and exercising special privilege.  We hear sexism rants particularly from women who believe their path up the corporate ladder is thwarted by men who receive undue favor.  Men treat women and speak of women in demeaning ways.  Police are opposed in the neighborhoods and it is considered OK to resist arrest and expect no consequences.  Politics divide people all types of ways; guns, schools, right to life, same sex marriage, transgender identity, public programs and more.  The distance between us grows and grows.  But God divides our nation based on only one distinction; are you redeemed or not?

We have a lot more in common than we care to admit.  While God made each one of us unique and equipped us with a mind and special abilities to be used to benefit ourselves, our community and to glorify Him, we also have a sin nature that joins us together.  We all have within us the seeds of sin that can and do manifest themselves.  No matter how hard we try, we cannot shake this demon nature of ours and for that reason God sent the world a Savior named Jesus Christ.

When we look at our divisions, we more often than not are holding ourselves above another viewpoint claiming superior intellect and moral rightness.  Many of the divisions aren't issues for God at all.  God made all races and his son died for everyone who will accept the free gift of salvation.  God made the sexes man and woman each with their own characteristics and designed to work together functioning in marriage as one unit.  God formed the child in its mothers womb and loves that child even before it breathes its first breath.  It is only God who can claim moral rightness, our place is to fall in line with His declarations or stand against them.

We all like to believe that we are worthy of God, but in fact the Bible tells us that each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  It tells us if we have sinned even just once we have made ourselves a reproach to God and unable to redeem ourselves no matter how much good we may do moving forward.  We are all deplorable sinners without any hope at all - until Jesus paid the price for our sin, we were all doomed to eternity away from God.  Now that Jesus has bridged the gap between men and God we do have a great hope for our nation.  We can all enjoy fellowship with God and have His Spirit reside in us if we will but admit our sin and agree with God that we have offended His laws, His plans and His purposes.  We can acknowledge that the only one who was perfect before God was Jesus alone and believe that His death and resurrection are sufficient to pay the price for our failures.  We can ask God to come inside us and clean house; chipping away at our character flaws and replacing our own nature with His.  Then we can receive that redemption promised.

With our nation divided it is clear more than ever that we need Jesus.  Some very passionate people hold views that are against God and may be standing on the edge of eternity without any hope.  Now more than ever the redeemed need to extend a hand of fellowship to those who are unsaved and offer them both friendship and encouragement.  There is a choice still to be made even though the president is selected - that choice is who will be King of your life?  Will we drift through life seeking our own will and pleasures or will we seek God's will and find eternal joy?  Our nation is divided, but we can be united once again; but only in Christ will we find true unity.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!