Friday, July 21, 2017

1 Samuel 26 - Honor to the Undeserving

I think most of us have had those authorities in our life that have not measured up to the position they hold. We have had to offer service, alliegiance and respect for those who really didn't deserve it. We offer it because of the position they hold. Probably some reading this can think of time when parents, teachers, employers, church leaders or government officials have let us down. They may have demanded a standard of conduct they themselves were not willing to bear, they may have directed activities down a course you knew to be unfruitful, or as in the case of David, they may have had it in for you. 

David's response to his king who has betrayed him time and time again can be a model for us as well, as we encounter leaders who are not all they should be. 

David's time is not so unlike our own. Politically, there were two factions. The leader in power was appointed by God to be the first king of Israel, but David had been anointed to be the next king. The people had picked sides. You were either like the Ziphites on the side of Saul, quick to reveal David's location to the king and see him slaughtered, or you were like David's band, people oppressed and disadvantaged because of the current powers. Both sides were ready for war. They wanted their leader solidly in power and the other to go away. Abishai represented the thought of David's followers in 1 Samuel 26:8 when he said in speaking of Saul the king, "let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear". Our political climate is just as emotionally charged even to the point of violence. 

David quashes the intended murder of the king , reminding Abishai that the king was appointed by God and it will be God who takes him out of power. David won't be the one to spill the blood of the king. God would not bless the one who assumed power by his own hand. (Just an aside, I think of all the times I have gotten ahead of God's plan for my life by acting when I should have waited; may the Lord forgive me for my arrogance).  David spares the life of the king, but takes the spear and water jug next to the king to demonstrate he had the power to do harm but chose not to exercise it.  David does so much to maintain the unity of Israel by demonstrating his respect for God and the king. 

Next, David calls out to the Captain of the Guard, Abner (1 Samuel 26:13-16). David chastises him for not doing his duty to the king.  The king's life could have been taken because he did not do his job.  Saul hears the commotion and recognizes David's voice. David didn't play the victim. He challenged the king to consider whether the angst in their relationship was stirred by God because David had wronged him or if it was men's doing. David was willing to right any wrongs, but if men had created the division between them, David called on God to curse them (1 Samuel 26:19). I don't believe God intends that we follow leaders blindly, but we work to sort out the source of any division and correct it. If it is our own pride and arrogance, then we should lay that aside. If there is a sin committed, then we should reach out to breech the gap. 

Saul apologizes and asks David to return to the king's service. David merely returns the items taken and indicates that he will put his fate in the Lord's hands and goes his own way. Saul blesses David and then returns to his home. David knows the danger is not passed and the peace is temporary. He gives honor to the king, but does not place himself in the line of fire. He goes his way enjoying the temporary peace provided. We do well to recognize that here there are some who will not offer us a permanent peace (unless God should change their hearts). We work toward peace and make sure division is not caused by our actions and we embrace the temporary times of peace we receive. 

Living a life in God's service does not mean we will avoid the conflict and strife here. It may even bring more. We should rightly respect people who hold positions of authority in our lives, but act wisely to maintain our integrity and to respect God's appointments. 

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

1 Samuel 25 - A Mean Man and a Wise Woman

I hardly know a marriage where opposites were not involved. Even when two like minded people are married there are always those areas of disagreement. Our human nature seeks to exalt our way over another. Far too many marriage end in divorce because one or both partners will not yield to the other (or to God). God uses marriage to mold our character and to conform us into His image. He teaches us to love unconditionally our marriage partner.  God teaches us to hold the commitment of marriage higher than any other human relationship.  

Yet, some marriages are fraught with angst because one partner is given to their sin nature.  In Chapter 25, we have the story of a mean man, Nabal and his wise wife, Abigail. Abigail knew the character of her husband and for years had lived with him knowing that he was a mean, impulsive and foolish man.   She placed herself in the hands of God looking to Him for her security and not to her husband. 

When David and his men came looking to be rewarded for their service on behalf of Nabal's shepherds, Nabal refused to entertain them. We can tell that this refusal was somewhat politically motivated and that there were factions of the people who were loyal to Saul the king and those who were following David as God's appointed leader.  We see this on verse 10 when Nabal challenges David. He didn't question whether David had actually performed service in guarding his shepherds, he threw a dig at David for leaving the service of Saul. "Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days".  No matter what the reason for hostility, Nabal clearly crossed the line and was intending to give offense. 

Abigail heard of the offense and David's intent to take judgement into his own hands and intervened. She knew David was angry and appealed to him to not shed blood and avenging himself rather than allowing God to execute judgment due to Nabal. She begs him to pay no attention to Nabal and to consider the larger picture. God had plans to bless David and he is to be the next king of Israel. Nabal and his offense is insignificant and should not cause David to lose his focus. She reminds him that his security is in the Lord and no enemy can hinder God's plan (verse 29). 

Now Abigail also wisely dealt with her husband as well. He needed to be told all that took place, but she waited until after his night of partying to speak to him privately. No doubt she prayed through the night not knowing how he would respond but trusting God to give her courage and protection. God intervened and took Nabals life and protected Abigail. 

One of my tests of life is...can I trust God even when people act in a contrary manner to us and to God?  Can I concern myself with looking to God for my security and protection and not take the role of judge and teacher to those who don't do as I believe they ought?  Tell me how you meet the challenge. 

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

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.